There is no denying that IEP meetings can be overwhelming and oftentimes, you go into them unprepared and leave feeling exhausted. However, this does not have to be the case. Below, I will list some tips that will help you get the most out of your child’s IEP meeting and ensure that you are able to meaningfully participate from start to finish.
What to do before the IEP meeting
Once the IEP meeting is scheduled, you need to get to work. To best prepare for the meeting, you need to gather your child’s most recent multifactored evaluation and progress reports from the last year. Also include your child’s grades. If you have received correspondence from your child’s teachers that document difficulties or successes, print those off and include them in your review.
Next, ask your child’s intervention specialist for a copy of the IEP draft at least one week beforehand. Make sure that your request is in writing. While not every school district is required to provide a draft copy of the IEP before the meeting, almost all districts do when asked.
Now that you have your documents to review and a draft copy of the IEP, it is time to get to work. When looking through the ETR, look closely at the educational needs section in all individual evaluators’ pages and the team summary. These areas of need should be reflected in the IEP somewhere. Most often, these needs will be transferred into goals and accommodations, but sometimes, the need may be listed in the profile if it is determined that a goal or accommodation is not necessary. If you do not see a need reflected in the IEP somewhere be sure to write it down so it can be addressed in the meeting. The progress report can guide you in determining if the goals written in the draft are appropriate based on your child’s progress on previous goals. Lastly, your child’s grades, work completion, and teacher notes can be helpful in developing services. Be sure to write everything down that you have questions or concerns about and send that list to the intervention specialist before the meeting, even if it is the morning of the meeting. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page, allow them to prepare, and highlight your concerns in the meeting.
What to do during the meeting
Meeting day has finally arrived. While having some anxiety about the meeting is normal, your preparation will help you feel more comfortable and confident in your approach. Take some deep breaths if you feel yourself getting elevated or upset and ask for a break if one is needed. If you have brought someone with you to the meeting, use a break to talk through questions you have with that individual.
Do not be afraid to ask questions or ask someone to clarify what has been discussed. It is easy for school staff to talk over you or to you but forget to include you in the conversation. Take notes while going through the meeting and jot down questions you have so you do not forget them. At the end of the meeting, ask the team those questions. If you were not able to talk through everything in the time allocated for the meeting, ask for a follow-up meeting. Make sure that you leave that IEP meeting feeling like a valued member of the team who was able to fully participate.
What to do after the meeting
After you have been able to process what was discussed during the meeting, follow up with team members if you have any additional questions or concerns. Sometimes, it takes a little bit of processing to fully grasp everything that went on. You should receive a Prior Written Notice and a copy of the IEP a day or two after the meeting, sometimes a little longer, but if you have not received these documents by a week after the meeting, be sure to ask for them. Read the IEP and make sure it is accurate and captures all changes discussed during the meeting. Additionally, read the Prior Written Notice to verify the accuracy of the events.
If the Prior Written Notice is not accurate, is misleading, or leaves out important information, you can email your account of what occurred and ask the school team to include your feedback with theirs. You can also ask that the team make changes to the Prior Written Notice to correct any errors. Store these documents in an electronic file or a physical file for your records. Continue to collect pieces of data that you receive throughout the year, including progress reports, to be prepared for next year’s IEP review. You’ve got this!!
Authored by Danielle Randolph, M.Ed, Ed.S, Advocate for Albeit Weiker, LLP
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