Sometimes we, as parents, get frustrated during meetings because we don’t understand the lingo. Here’s a parent guide to surviving an IEP meeting.
Prepare for the Meeting
- Make sure the school understands your willingness to be involved in the process.
- Ask who will be attending the meeting. Knowing how many people will be here ahead of time will take out some of the shock when you arrive and there’s a bunch of people sitting there.
- If your child gets related services, like Speech or OT, make sure they will attend the meeting. It’s important for you to be able to ask all people involved with your child questions if necessary.
- Let the school now if you intend to bring anyone with you. You want to establish a positive relationship with the school for the benefit of your child, so it helps that you don’t spring any surprises on them.
- Make sure that the school has scheduled a convenient time and location, and ample time for meeting. A regular meeting often lasts about 30-45 minutes and meetings where you discuss evaluations take about an hour.
- Ask to review relevant documents before meeting.
- Gather your documentation–including IEP progress reports and former IEPs. I keep up with mine in a notebook separated by tab dividers by year. Progress reports and things like that go into an attached file folder.
- Write down any questions you intend to ask during the meeting before you get there. It’s easy to forget what you wanted to ask during a meeting when you will receive so much information.
- Prepare notes of what you expect your child to learn over the next year and/or what you believe will help them achieve their goals.
- Invite any advocates well ahead of the meeting, if possible, and review documentation with them so that they are prepared for the meeting.
During the Meeting
- Get comfortable with your surroundings.
- Greet everyone at the meeting
- Engage in some brief pre-meeting chatter
- Sit where you’re most comfortable
- Make sure that everyone has been introduced and that you know everyone’s role in the meeting.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions if necessary
- Look for ways to express gratitude to teachers and related staff. It helps to get them on your side!
- Speak in clear, objective language as much as possible.
- Attempt to stay calm even if you’re angry. You do NOT want to be the “crazy mama.”
- Remain steadfast in advocating for your child, but do it diplomatically.
- Ask questions like “If this were your child..”
- Refer to previous IEPs or progress reports where necessary. The documents from the current year will be most relevant.
- Look at your notes to make sure you ask the questions you want to ask and that you made it clear what you expect for your child to learn and how.
- Make sure the school only focuses on your child’s needs–not the needs of the school, their classrooms, or other students. This meeting is for your child, not anyone else!
- Listen carefully.
- Don’t allow your child to be compared to others. Your child’s progress holds more importance than how your child has done compared to other children.
- Don’t allow them to rush you through the meeting. If you have questions, ask them. If you don’t agree with the language of the IEP, make sure you reach a mutual agreement on it.
- Be honest and trust that the school will do the same.
- Involve your child for at least part of the meeting if they can contribute and always if 16 or over.
After the Meeting
- Review your notes about what you intended to ask and make sure you got all of your questions answered.
- Thank the team for their willingness to work toward your child’s success.
- Make sure that you received a parent handbook if you do not have one already. Ask if it has changed since you last received one to make sure that you have the most recent version.
- Ask when you will receive a copy of the IEP and all relevant documents.
- Any minutes taken during the meeting
- Any evaluations they went over
- A prior notice of change (this will contain instructions for appealing any decision you did not agree with)
- Make sure you call or email any questions you have after you’ve left the meeting. It’s never too late to ask questions.
Hopefully this guide to surviving an IEP meeting will help you do what’s best for your child in the best possible way. Your child needs you to advocate for him or her and making sure you take the right steps during the process will help you do just that.
What’s your biggest concern about attending an IEP meeting?