An individualized education plan (IEP) is an important part of school success for children with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Each year, parents have a legally mandated meeting to set up their kid’s IEP. This is an essential time to advocate for your child and help ensure that the school understands and caters to his or her needs. That can leave parents feeling quite a bit of pressure. The key to overcoming nerves and being effective is properly preparing for your child’s IEP meeting.
By thoroughly preparing for your child’s IEP meeting, you’ll know exactly what ground you need to cover, and you’ll feel more confident. Below are some key things to take care of ahead of the meeting.
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Getting Ready for Your Kid’s IEP Meeting
- Request an advance copy of the IEP form. Get the form ahead of time from the school so you know exactly what will be discussed and filled out. Typically, IEP forms cover things like when a student will be in classes or a specialized program, goals and learning objectives, educational tools and approaches that will promote success, and supplemental support services.
- Prioritize your child’s needs. Make a list of your child’s specific academic, social, physical, and emotional challenges, ranking them by priority in each category. While you may not get to cover everything in the meeting, this ensures that you at least get to the most pressing needs.
- Assemble and review an IEP prep packet for yourself. Gather the information from your child’s last IEP meetings, recent progress reports and report cards, and maybe some recent tests and homework assignments. Going through these will help you see more clearly where progress has been made, where more focus is needed, what your child’s strengths and weaknesses are, and so on. Bring this packet, as well as relevant medical records or other records, to the meeting.
- Ask for your child’s input. Talk to your son or daughter about what’s worked well at school and what they’d like to be different. It’s also often good to give your child the option of attending the IEP meeting.
- Write down your questions, concerns, and information you want to convey. Don’t rely on improvisation and memory when it comes to covering all the subjects you want to cover. Give it some thought ahead of time and write everything down. Organize it neatly and logically, like a presentation, and bring it with you to the IEP meeting.
- Help the teachers prepare too. Find out in advance which school staff and which of your child’s teachers will attend the meeting. Email them the most important questions that are specific to them a few days beforehand so they’re fully prepared to answer them thoroughly and efficiently.
- Know your child’s rights. You and your child have rights concerning special education accommodations, and the school should provide information about them. Request this information in advance and review it completely.
- Research different learning programs in your area. Collect information about learning programs that sound like they’d be beneficial for your child. Organize the information and bring it with you to the IEP meeting.
- Remind yourself to go in with an open mind. Yes, you know your child better than anyone. But the professionals at the school also have valuable experience and knowledge. While you may convince yourself that there’s only one way to do something, or only one particular program is right, be receptive to input and ideas from the others in the meeting.
- Decide when you’d like communication from the teachers. Every student gets progress reports and report cards, but you’d probably like to hear from your child’s teachers more often, and in more detail. Teachers are generally happy to oblige. Let them know how often you’d like them to check in (be reasonable), and if there are certain circumstances or events you definitely want to hear about.
- Find a family member or close friend to go with you. Having another set of trusted ears at the meeting is very helpful. They can even take notes while you talk. This is a good way to make sure you don’t miss or misunderstand anything discussed in the IEP meeting. Do let the school know ahead that you’re bringing someone else, and what their relationship is to your kid. You’re also legally entitled to record the meeting, but you must give at least 24 hours’ notice of your intent to do so.