When I work with families, one of the most common questions I hear is, “what is an IEP meeting and what should I expect?” I think as professionals, we forget how new all of this is to parents and without meaning to, we move too fast.
A parent I worked with recently told me that after two years of IEP meetings, she hadn’t realized that her child was in special education. She just hadn’t understood the process and it left her feeling confused and powerless. I believe we can do better than this for parents! All of special education begins with an initial IEP – so that is where we are going to start!
So, what can you expect when you walk into an initial IEP?
1. You can expect the meeting will be made up of a team of professionals.
Depending on the areas that your child was assessed in, the professionals attending will vary BUT, there are certain people that always need to attend. Download this IEP meeting PowerSheet to help keep track of who is who at the meeting.
- a person who represents the administration (eg: district administrator, principal, administrative designee),
- a special education teacher, a general education teacher,
- and then anyone who has completed assessments (eg: speech and language, Occupational therapist, psychologist).
2. You can expect that you will receive a copy of your rights as parents.
Federal law requires that every parent is notified of their rights that they have as a part of an IEP team. These may be sent home to you prior to the meeting or given to you at the meeting. You have a right to ask for these rights to be explained if you have questions.
3. You can expect that a report will be reviewed that summarizes all of the testing that was completed to determine if your child is found eligible for special education.
The format of this report can vary from district to district and state to state. This report can and should be comprehensive. The team needs to assess your child in any and all areas of SUSPECTED eligibility. The purpose of the assessment is to rule in and out any areas that the school or parent has concerns about. The assessment can include standardized testing, informal testing as well as observations and teacher reports. Taking notes while listening to the results is helpful! Once again, the Initial IEP POWER Sheet Form will help you do so!
4. You can expect to learn if your child is found eligible for special education
After reviewing the report, the team will discuss whether your child meets the criteria for eligibility for special education. Remember – a diagnosis and eligibility are different. If your child is found eligible, then the team moves on to the development of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
5. If your child is found eligible, the second part of the meeting will be the development of the actual IEP document. (this may be at this meeting or a subsequent meeting, depending on how your school schedules these.)
- If your child meets the criteria for one of 13 areas of eligibility AND requires special education, then they become eligible for special education and an IEP is developed. If they do not meet the criteria, an IEP is NOT developed and they are not a special education student.
- Remember to ask questions about the assessment before moving on. You will have just been given a lot of information~ take your time and ask as many questions as you need!!
6. You can expect that the IEP team will then develop individualized goals, accommodations/modifications and determine and services for your child.
This is the “meat” of the IEP when the plan for moving forward is developed and the “what now” questions get answered. Based on the deficits noted in the assessment, IEP goals are developed to target the areas of deficit. These goals will be individualized for your child. Accommodations/Modifications will be discussed. All of this will lead to a recommendation of services and supports to help your child make progress on their IEP goals and access their learning.
7. Based on the state where you live, you can expect a signature page will be reviewed with you to sign that you were in attendance and/or consent to the IEP that was developed.
Initial IEP’s are generally the longest and the most involved of all the meetings because you are looking at both eligibilities as well as the development of the actual IEP document. Future IEPs will be generally shorter and a bit less involved.
Navigating the maze of special education can be confusing and overwhelming. Remember, you don’t have to do this alone!