IEP meetings can seem long and often overwhelming. The truth is that there are several ways you, as the parent, can know for certain that your IEP meeting is staying on track. That’s why I’ve put together the following five hints to keep you in the know.
Hint #1: The School Starts the Meeting By Asking for Your Input
At the beginning of each IEP meeting, it is good practice for an IEP team to ask the family if they have any comments/questions/concerns they want to share with the team before they get started. Special education law requires that parents participate in IEPs meetings and though it doesn’t require that the school starts a meeting this way if they do it shows they are really interested in what you have to say! If they don’t start off like that, feel free to jump in and let them know you have something to say before they jump into the meeting!
Note: For more information on this topic, check out his resource about Playing a Role in the IEP Process.
Hint #2: All the Required Members are in Attendance
Federal law clearly lays out who needs to attend each and every IEP meeting.
The team includes:
- At least one of your child’s general education teachers
- At least one special education teacher
- Any other special education providers that are working with your child
- A school district representative knowledgeable about general education and special education. This representative has the power to commit school resources for your child.
- A school psychologist or other specialist who can interpret your child’s first (or most recent) evaluation and test results. (If there is assessment being reviewed)
- Your child, starting when the IEP team begins to develop the transition plan for life after high school.
A team member can be excused if both you and the school agree to it. Otherwise, the team should reschedule the meeting for a time when everyone can be present.
You can invite someone to attend the meeting that you feel will support the team in creating your child’s IEP. It can be helpful to have an extra set of eyes and ears in the room. Just make sure to let the school know about any guests ahead of time.
Hint #3: The Team is Prepared and has Shared Documents for You to Follow Along With
There is nothing worse than walking into an IEP meeting that is disorganized and chaotic. Understanding that sometimes, even the best-laid plans can go wrong is important but, in general, an IEP team should come in organized and ready to go. When I work with schools, I always encourage them to make sure parents have a copy of the present levels and goals (both previous and proposed) to follow along with. This helps everyone stay on track in the meeting. It can be very difficult for parents to listen and comprehend everything that is being presented without having anything to reference, so if it isn’t offered, make sure to ask!
Hint #4: As the Team Speaks, What They Say Sounds Like Your Child
This may sound obvious but it is SO important. If you are listening to the team present information and it does not connect with what you know or understand about your child, you should stop and ask some clarifying questions. It’s okay to share that this information doesn’t connect with your experience. It doesn’t mean that what they are saying is wrong (often our kids are very different at home and school), but it is important for you to get clarity.
Important tip: gaining clarity does NOT have to be confrontational.
Hint #5: Your Questions and Concerns were Addressed and Next Steps are Discussed
I always recommend that you write down the questions/comments that you presented to the team so that you can make sure that they were all covered by the end of the meeting. So much is said throughout the process that it can be hard to keep track. So often, parents walk out of the meeting and only then remember what they wanted to say or ask. It’s a good sign if the school team wraps up by making sure you feel like everything was covered.
Grab my FREE notes page to keep track of your thoughts throughout the meeting.
Keeping the IEP Meeting on Track
IEPs can be overwhelming for parents and these tips can help. Also, if you are still struggling to navigate the ins and outs of IEPs, it’s not too late to join my course, IEPs Untangled. I detail everything you need to know to navigate the process, without the headache! Check it out HERE.