6 Steps for every parent!
By Eve Kessler, Esq.
Experts, advocates, and parents agree that preparing for the IEP meeting is the key to building a plan that will ensure your child’s success. Knowledge of your child, the school system, and federal and state laws and regulations will empower you to become the advocate your child deserves. So prepare, prepare, and prepare more, using these tips to guide you:
Write a list of issues that you feel are important. Try to resolve any questions or concerns before the meeting so the time your with the team can be used productively to agree on a plan. Prior discussion will eliminate surprises at this meeting.
Prepare your own questions and items to address. Ask for a blank copy of the IEP form showing the components and prepare questions you would like to discuss at the meeting. Bring the list with you.
To be an informed participant in the process request that the school provide you with the evaluations and proposed goals, objectives, and placement recommendations prior to the meeting.
Written notice of the IEP meeting will include a list of attendees. Review the list to make sure that all necessary school and outside personnel will be there. Notify the school if you intend to bring someone from outside the school (e.g., a friend, relative, advocate, or outside evaluator). It may be someone who has knowledge of your child and his needs, or someone just to take notes while you listen.
If this is your first IEP meeting, talk to other parents who have been through this to learn from their experiences. You may also find it useful to attend support groups, conferences, informational meetings, and seminars.
Know your child. Prepare a sample parent vision statement that describes your child. Provide a list of her strengths, challenges, preferences, learning styles, and what she needs to succeed across curricula and environments. Bring samples of her work and recent evaluations done outside of school. Consider bringing your child if appropriate.
The following are IEP tips and strategies designed to help you prepare for the meeting while developing a collaborative relationship with your school district. As a parent, hearing the words "IEP Meeting" might cause you feel nervous, overwhelmed or even experience a feeling of dread. We know from life, that if we are prepared, our anxiety levels go down.
IEP TIPS for a SUCCESSFUL MEETING
1. Respond to the meeting notification and let them know you will be attending. If you plan on bringing an outside friend, specialist or advocate, let the district know ahead of time. If you cannot attend, ask to reschedule. Let the school know the meeting is important to you.
2. Bring all important documents to the meeting. If you received a negative report card, progress report or if your child is having behavioral problems, bring these documents. If you’ve recently seen a medical doctor or psychologist, you might ask the doctor to write some type of summary report that can be shared at the meeting.
3. You have a right to receive a copy of the assessment results ahead of time so you can preview them before the meeting. You may also request a copy of the proposed IEP and the actual goals in advance so you can preview them and jot down questions you have.
4. Write down your questions, concerns and suggestions. IEP meetings tend to be slightly rushed so the more prepared and organized you are the better chance that all your concerns and questions will be addressed.
5. You may visit possible program options prior to the meeting. Ask for a visit to be arranged before the IEP meeting takes place.
6. You may tape record the meeting. Notify the case manager or special education teacher at least 24 hours in advance if you plan on doing this.
7. Be an equal partner in the IEP process. Don’t silently sit there. Ask questions, offer suggestions and bring ideas to the table. Remember, you are the voice of your child.
8. Ask for a copy of your rights in advance so you feel comfortable signing them when asked.
9. If you are uncomfortable with the IEP plan or do not feel you’ve had enough time, don’t be afraid to ask for a continuation meeting. You do not have to sign the IEP!
You can say something like, “I really like many of the things we discussed today. I don’t feel ready to sign this yet, but I’m sure if we can continue this meeting we will be able to work through the remaining issues.”
10. Remember, you can agree to parts of the plan without agreeing to the entire IEP. The parts you’ve agreed on will be implemented while you continue to work on the remaining issues.
11. IDEA states that you can ask to take the IEP home for further review before you sign it. Some parents find it overwhelming or feel too rushed during the actual meeting to make a final decision.