A group of about 30 people gathered in the multipurpose room of the Center for Early Learning-North in Columbia Tuesday evening. One shirt in the crowd read “different is good” with another championing the Missouri Disability Empowerment nonprofit, also called MoDE.
The owners of those shirts were there to learn about Individualized Education Plans, or IEPs from Brook Fuller, a representative from MPACT. MPACT is a parent training and information center with the goal of empowering parents to advocate for themselves in order to help their children with special needs.
“It’s an education plan that just marks out specific goals for that child based on where they are and what they need to improve; things they need for education and for life skills,” Michelle Ribaudo, CoMO SEPTA president, said.
Parents who attended the meeting raised concerns about how to go about getting their child an evaluation for an IEP as well as how to coordinate with local schools to get their children the help they need.
“It’s to educate parents on what it is, what their rights and responsibilities are and how to work effectively with the schools,” Ribaudo said of the meeting.
Robyn Schelp, president of MoDE, believes parents need to be educated about IEPs so they can make the best decisions for their kids. Schelp has three kids, all of which have had an IEP at some point in time.
“First, I don’t think a lot of people realize how many people are impacted by IEPs,” Schelp said. “In Missouri, over 127,000 students have IEPs. So we’re not talking that this is just a rare thing that very few kids have.”
CoMo SEPTA, or Columbia Special Education PTA, hosted the event.