Tips to Prepare for an IEP Meeting
Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela
Preparing for an IEP Meeting and New School Year
Many schools are preparing to start in the next few weeks. Parents are purchasing clothes, shoes, and supplies for their children. For some parents back to school is more than the annual supplies, clothes, and yearbooks. These parents must also begin preparations for an IEP meeting for their child. I have attended many IEP Meetings and want to share my tips to prepare for your IEP meeting.
What is an IEP MEETING?
An IEP meeting is a team meeting of teachers, administrators, parents, and other consultants to discuss the coming school year for a student. The IEP meeting addresses the educational accommodations, modifications, and interventions a qualified student requires during the school year.
For the first timer, IEP meetings are intimidating and stressful. The terminology and phrases are foreign to parents and can be confusing. The following tips to prepare for your IEP meeting should remove some of the mystery.
The IEP meeting an important component to the educational success of your child. The IEP establishes accommodations, resources, testing, and homework modifications (to name a few). A parent may always request additional meetings during the school year to review progress and made changes to the IEP document
How to Prepare for an IEP Meeting
- Take a Course and Learn
The first year I had an IEP meeting I was a nervous wreck. I had heard the horror stories about schools and wanted to be fully prepared. I purchased and completed a course by Wrights Law. The course is designed to walk the first time (or veteran) parent through their rights, navigate an IEP meeting, preparation, school responsibilities, and explained No Child Left Behind. This site contains a tremendous amount of information and support for parents preparing for IEP meetings.
2. Documentation and Resources
Gather all relevant documentation: work samples, test scores, and medical documents, etc.
Sort into a large binder for easy access.
Here is my IEP binder. My oldest daughter calls it “The Binder of Intimidation”! Seriously, I bring this binder with me to every school meeting. I want the staff to understand I am serious about my child’s education, diligent, and credible. I will discuss the internal organization of the binder later this week.
The binder is covered with photos of my son demonstrating his strengths and personalizing an otherwise impersonal meeting.
3. Document Everything; Get it in Writing
Make all requests in writing and keep a copy in your IEP binder. This includes assessments, services, accommodations, meetings, etc.
The law allows you to audio record the IEP meeting. This is a very useful reference tool.
Take notes and contribute to the meeting. Ask questions, ask for explanations, ask for clarifications, and keep asking until you understand.
Don’t agree with the proposed IEP? DO NOT SIGN IT. You are under no obligation to sign an IEP document if you do not agree with the plan. Request another meeting. Write a letter documenting the points of the IEP you do not agree.
Contemplate and Write
Write a letter about your child. You know your child best and now is a good time to write about his or her strengths and talents. Address the letter to the staff and present at the meeting. Include details about who your child including strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and successes, educational and learning approaches that work well.
Behavior is Key
Check your hostility and anger at the door. The IEP meeting is about your child — not you. You are your child’s advocate so behave in their best interest. The IEP Meeting is a team environment. All members contribute to the structure of the goals. Parents are significant to the team so do not fall into hostility to accomplish what you believe is necessary for your child.
The IEP Meeting is not the place nor time to vent; bring issues to the table in a calm and mature manner. Remember, everything you do and say in a meeting is documented — as much as you document the comments and behavior of school representatives.
Helpful Links and Resources
Looking for more support and information to prepare for your IEP meeting? Here are some links you may find helpful:
- Yellow Pages for Kids
- 10 Mistakes Parents Make at IEP Meetings
- National Center for Learning Disabilities — how to read an IEP
- Understanding IEP Test Scores and Assessments