Submitted by: René Tomey, M.A., BCBA
Have you ever attended an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting? Or maybe you are the parent of a young child preparing for your first IEP meeting, and you’re wondering what to expect? As a former special education teacher, I have a unique perspective on IEP meetings, and have attended these meetings as both a public school teacher and a private provider. In this post, I’d like to share with you some tips and suggestions for making the most out of your child’s IEP meeting.
Let’s begin by explaining what exactly the IEP is. An IEP is a document developed for every child attending public school that requires special education services. IEPs are developed to ensure that any child with a disability as defined by law receives the services, accommodations, and/or modifications that he or she may need to access the curriculum. When a child first enters public education, a team of professionals, such as a teacher, psychologist, counselor, speech pathologist, occupational therapist, and so on, comes together to develop an IEP based on that child’s individual needs. Every year, the child’s current team will reconvene to update the IEP and set new goals and objectives.
When it comes time for your child’s IEP meeting there are many things you can do before, during, and after the meeting to ensure that your child is receiving the appropriate services to meet his/her needs.
Before the meeting, you can…
- Ask what type of IEP meeting it is! Is this the annual update, a meeting to request permission for testing, a meeting to discuss extended school year services, or an addendum to the current IEP?
- Talk to your child’s teachers, therapists, and any others that play a role in his/her day-to-day education. Ask for a draft copy of the proposed services and goals so you can review them before the meeting and prevent surprises.
- If applicable, review previous IEPs and progress reports so you know what has already been mastered and where your child should be performing.
- Write down any thoughts and questions you may have.
- Let the team know if you will be attending the meeting. By law, you are required to receive 7-10 days notice prior to a scheduled meeting.
- If you have a trusted friend, relative, outside provider, etc. ask him/her to accompany you to the meeting to help paint a complete picture of your child.
During the meeting, you can…
- Participate and collaborate – you are a part of the team, too!
- Be prepared to hear about both successes and challenges, as well as areas for improvement.
- Ask questions! If you don’t understand an acronym or term that is used, ask for clarification. If you don’t know why a specific goal has been chosen, ask about that, too.
- Stay calm and courteous, and try to understand everyone’s point of view. If skills are not educationally relevant (meaning they are not applicable and/or functional within the school setting), then teachers and therapists may not be allowed to address them.
- Know that there is no time limit. If you are not ready for the meeting to end or comfortable with what is being presented, do not feel rushed.
After the meeting, you can…
- Ask for a follow up meeting if you need more time to review documentation or process what is being presented. Hopefully, if you received a draft of the IEP before the meeting, this won’t be necessary. However, you don’t have to sign the IEP that day if you are uneasy.
- Keep a copy of the final IEP somewhere safe.
- Continue to build and maintain a relationship with your child’s teachers and therapists.
Hopefully this information helps give you a better idea of how the IEP process works and what you can reasonably expect from your child’s educational team. Remember, you can always ask us for help and support if you need it!