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.
To read more about how to negotiate an effective IEP meeting visit my section on IEP tips and collaboration strategies.