IEP Meetings are both a challenge and an opportunity for parents. If you’re looking for tips to help you prepare for your child’s next IEP meeting you’re in the right place!
Prepare for your IEP meeting like a boss: from IEP basics to setting goals to getting organized and everything in between; consider your IEP Meeting prep covered.
My son’s first IEP meeting was a nightmare.
We were about three months out from his autism diagnosis, and I was new to the world of special needs parenting and Special Education. I was cluelessly planning my child’s next year of school while trying not to have a public nervous breakdown.
Let me set it up for you:
I didn’t understand half of the conversation, because they were speaking in an unknown language of acronyms.
My confidence was so low I couldn’t make eye contact with anyone at the meeting. I was off my game, which made me feel weak and confused.
And guess what?
You cannot be an advocate for your child and simultaneously be weak. It’s impossible.
Instead of writing yet another “mad at the world” autism blog, I threw myself into research and funneled my rage into something more meaningful and worthwhile.
I created an acronym guide with very little technical knowledge – please forgive the design – and feel free to download it.
Now, I’m writing to help you with your next IEP.
I don’t want any mom or dad or grandmother- or caregiver to experience the emotions I felt at my first “rodeo.” Let’s plan your kid’s IEP like a boss.
What Is An IEP? What Is An IEP Meeting?
Aside from being the first acronym under your belt, an IEP (AKA: Individualized Education Plan) is required by law for any child receiving special education and related services.
Here’s an easy way to think of an IEP – it exists to serve your child and his or her unique needs.
What Is Included In the IEP?
PLOP or Present Level of Performance in school
Individualized instruction needs
Related Services: Occupational therapy, Speech Therapy
Supports: Includes assistive technology and accommodations
Who Attends An IEP Meeting?
Mom & Dad (Or Caregiver)
Parents play a major role here, so make sure you attend all of your child’s IEP meetings. If you find the scheduled date doesn’t work for you – you can reschedule.
Your Support Team
You can also bring your child’s therapist, someone who knows your child’s needs (grandparent, other caregiver), friends and advocates, as long as you have notified the school ahead of time. Bringing a support system will help you tremendously.
If your child has any general education classes, then one of those teachers should be at the IEP. Same goes for special education teachers.
School district representative
A representative who has knowledge of general and special education & who has the authority to commit resources from your school district should also play a role.
School Psychologist (or another specialist)
A school psychologist needs to be on the IEP team so there is someone who can read/interpret results from any evaluations or tests.
Reasons You Need To Bring A Support Team To An IEP Meeting
You will feel less intimidated. The school will be represented by at least 3 people – likely more. (We’ve had more than 8 school representatives at one IEP and it’s never fewer than 5)
You’ll have people there to help you stay focused
Bringing a team will help you remember important details after the meeting
At our last IEP, I brought my husband, my son’s ABA therapist, and a friend who happens to be an attorney.
Boom. It made a huge difference.
If you decide to round up a team for your next IEP meeting make sure you’ve discussed your goals with them ahead of time. You don’t have to show them a powerpoint presentation-just be sure you’re all on the same page – and let the school know you are bringing guests in advance.
IEP Meeting Prep
This isn’t something you can throw together the night before the meeting. You need to be
organized methodically organized!
You’ll need two three-ring binders – the large kind. Make sure you get the ones with the plastic covers on the front and back. You’re going to put a photo of your child on the front and a school calendar on the back:)
I am including links because if you are anything like me you’ll want to go ahead and buy this stuff now. Please note those are my affiliate links-meaning if you make a purchase through them I may make a commission – at no extra cost to you.
Inside the IEP Binder
Current (& old) Copies of your child’s IEP + Notes: If you cannot locate these you can call the school and request a copy.
Reports: All of your child’s school reports-report cards, progress reports, any disciplinary records
Evaluations: Copies of tests and evaluations from your school district
Documented Communication: Any & all correspondence from the school (This is why I love e-mail. I have a folder for this purpose, and I can print it out easily)
Your Support Team: List of all the professionals/school therapists/ anyone who works with your child + their contact information
Medical: Make a section in your binder dedicated to copies of medical documents – including vaccinations. In some cases, you may need a separate binder for this!
Prescriptions: If your child takes any prescription medicine or supplements, list the names, amounts and the dosage.
Updated Information: If your child has seen a new physician or therapist since your last IEP- be sure to give copies of reports or other relevant information to your school district representative. They will need to put this info in his/her file.
Notes Section: A place for your thoughts and observations regarding school & home progress/behavior, etc
Goals: A section listing your goals for your child’s IEP & what you expect from the IEP meeting
***I know this is a lot of work and a ton of information. If you do not feel prepared, it’s ok to reschedule the IEP meeting.
IEP Meeting Tips – Goal Setting
Give yourself some time to read your child’s last IEP and review those goals. If you’re stumped, ask yourself these questions.
How is he doing on his/her current goals?
Has she met the goals?
Were the goals realistic?
Do you understand the goals?
Are they measurable goals or do they seem vague?
IEP goals that are poorly written can be confusing- I’ve had more than a few IEP goal review induced headaches.
Here’s what helps me.
IEP Goals should be S.M.A.R.T. Well, technically they must be SMART according to IDEA. Here’s what that means.
IDEA 2004 requires your IEP team to describe your child’s “present levels of academic achievement and functional performance.”
Let me break that down for you.
S – Specific goals will target your child’s performance in academic and functional areas. A specific IEP goal will be clear on what your child will learn and how he/she will learn it. Specific goals are not vague, but rather clearly described actionable goals that are time limited.
M – Measurable goals contain your child’s skills that can be observed and/or counted. They typically include what’s referred to as baseline data (where your child is at this moment) and the goal you are trying to reach.
A – Action Words. Use action words
R – Realistic + Related
T – Time Limited goals are there for you to measure your child’s progress.
You may want to review your child’s goals again and make sure the goals are SMART.
If so, there needs to be a plan in place, in writing, in the IEP. If there isn’t one, address this at the IEP meeting.
***Do not rely on the school alone. They are doing hundreds of IEP’s. Your input is needed!
Special Education Laws
IDEA – What You Need To Know
Our nation’s special education law, IDEA was passed in 1975. You need to understand your child’s rights and protections under IDEA so that you can confidently advocate and get the services that are provided by law.
IDEA covers too many aspects of special education to cover in this article, so we’ll stick to the primary purposes IDEA:
- IDEA gives you a voice and allows you to be a part of the decisions made for your child.
- IDEA provides kids determined to have special needs a Free Appropriate Public Education or (FAPE)
Here’s a great article that explains the law in a way that’s easy to understand.
Wright’s Law is another reliable source.
Not every teacher and principal understands these rules, and unfortunately not all SPED directors are forthcoming. Sometimes it is best to bring an advocate or, in some cases, an attorney. You can find one here.
At The IEP Meeting
The IEP Meeting should not be all about what your child cannot do! Remind the IEP team they are discussing a real child-not a statistic.
You can do this by sharing a photo with them-the one on your notebook and/or another photograph to pass around.
You’re going to be hit with a ton of information. As in, your head will be spinning, and you will forget what your name is. Do your best to focus on a few- ideally one – primary goal for the IEP.
Is it behavioral?
Ask what you can do at home to assist your child in achieving this goal.
Ask About Your Child’s Day To Day Details
You want to know what your child’s day at school is going to look like.
What time is lunch?
Does he eat lunch with general education kids or special needs kids only?
Who will be working with your child to provide supports to meet his goals?
Will she be getting speech therapy/occupational therapy/physical therapy or ABA?
Will that therapy be one on one or in a group session?
It is very important for you get down to the details while you are at the meeting. These specific supports need to be documented in the IEP.
Do I Have To Sign The IEP Plan?
You do not have to sign the IEP at the conclusion of the meeting. Especially if you feel like more needs to be discussed or another meeting is necessary. It is well within your rights to ask for more time and a copy of the IEP to take home and review.
Build A Bridge Not A Wall
Try to build a relationship with your child’s teachers and the Special Education Administrators.
It’s easy to see them as the enemy at first because they have something you want and they may seem resistant to give it to you. Remember they are doing their job and you are doing yours.
I know it’s hard to put your emotions aside, trust me, I know, I’m a disaster before an IEP Meeting- no matter how much I’ve prepared, but I know that I have to be level-headed.
Do your best to be calm, cool, and collected. Don’t burn bridges. Remember that these people will be on your IEP team for a long time.
Final Word: I hope you’re not too overwhelmed. Learning what you need to know comes with time and experience.
Did I Miss Anything?
Do you have enough information to prepare for your child’s IEP Meeting?
Or do you still have a few questions?
Either way, please let me know by leaving a comment below!