Before the IEP Conference
Taking a few steps to prepare before the IEP meeting may help you feel more confident about the process and prepared to be an advocate for your child.
Talk to your child. Involve your child in the process. Find out what his or her feelings are about school, home and friends. Ask what he or she thinks are his or her strengths, what he or she wants to learn, or if there is something he or she would like to do better.
Become knowledgeable about your child's disability. Learn as much as you can about your child's disability and how it may affect his or her education.
Review your child's file. If you have concerns, you can make an appointment with the school and review what is contained in your child's record prior to the IEP meeting. Make sure you understand what it contains.
Review any previous IEPs for your child. Previous IEPs can serve as a roadmap or compass for future plans. If your child currently has an IEP in place, review it before starting the process over. What goals had been set for your child? How has your child progressed toward those goals? What seems to be working well? Are there areas that your child may need more assistance? Answering these questions can make the re-evaluation process go smoothly.
Make an outline of what you believe your child needs to learn. Examine long-range goals you have for your child and rethink them if necessary. Consider annual goals that will have value for your child and your family, and which will help your child accomplish his or her long-range plans.
Prepare a list of questions. Writing down a list of questions you have will help to make sure you don't forget anything during the meeting. Many of your questions may be answered as the IEP meeting progresses. Don't hesitate to ask questions to make sure all of your concerns are addressed.
Talk with other parents. Talking to other parents of children with disabilities can be an invaluable resource. Learning from those who know what you're going through can make things easier and put the process in a different perspective. Learn as much as you can from them about their IEP experiences.
Invite others to the IEP meeting. Inviting others who may be able to provide information about your child to the meeting can be valuable. This may include any therapists, counselors or doctors who may be working with your child outside of school. If they cannot attend, ask them to prepare a statement or progress report that you can share on their behalf during the meeting. You also may want to invite a relative or friend to attend who can provide moral support or who makes you feel more comfortable participating in a group. As a courtesy, be sure to inform the teacher if you plan to bring someone to the conference.
Attend the meeting. You are an important part of the team and your input is valued. As a parent, you are the first and best advocate for your child. If you are unable to attend, call the teacher to reschedule. It's also important to go to the meeting with a positive mindset and willingness to try new things. Look at the meeting as an opportunity for growth and a chance to make things better for your child. Remember, this is a team effort and everyone working with your child needs to be working together in order to produce the best results.
What to Bring Checklist
At the IEP Meeting
Hints for the Meeting
Remember, diagnostic tests do not present the total picture. Your most important job is to make sure that the others at the IEP conference never forget that you are talking about a real child. Make sure the focus of the discussion is on your child’s strengths as well as needs.
Usually your child’s special education teacher or administrator will act as chairperson or group leader for the IEP meeting. Ask for introductions if the person chairing the meeting does not have everyone introduce himself/herself. If you are not sure what each person’s role is at the meeting, ask him/her to explain.
Each person has something to share and should have a chance to say what he/she thinks. Stick with the issue at hand; i.e., your child’s education. Do not be sidetracked by irrelevant issues such as your past experiences or the district’s lack of funds.
If you do not understand something that is said, ask to have it explained. Do not hesitate to ask for clarification of any detail.
You are free to disagree with any part of the IEP. If you disagree, try to do so in a helpful way. Make suggestions instead of getting angry or upset.
Be flexible enough to accept minor revisions, but be firm about the major issues.
The program for your child should be built on services that relate to strengths and abilities, special problems and learning needs, not to his or her category of disability. If you do not agree that this is what the program does, speak up. Changes can be made if you state your views and ideas.
Share relevant information about your child. Inform the committee of any activities or significant events that may influence your child’s performance in school.
Make sure your child’s medical history is up-to-date and that the committee know if there are any special needs or services provided by other sources.
Participate in developing your child’s goals and objectives.
Take note of what nonacademic school activities are included in your child’s program. Do not forget areas such as lunch, recess, art, music and physical education.
Be sure all services that are necessary to implement your child’s educational program are written into the IEP.
Ask yourself if what is planned corresponds to your knowledge of your child’s ability and needs.
Make sure team members talk with, rather than about, your child if he or she is in the meeting. Maybe your child can suggest a goal and/or objective or benchmark and take responsibility for it.
When you feel teachers and school personnel are doing a good job, compliment them.
You can expect the teachers to carry out informal assessment on a continuing basis. They should be willing to keep trying new methods if your child is not making progress.
If you are not sure you are in agreement with the IEP, you may ask for the IEP to be reconvened by following due process procedures.
If the group needs more time to complete the IEP, there can be more than one meeting.
Your child’s progress must be reported to you as frequently as that of a child without disabilities. The IEP, as a whole, must be reviewed once a year. You also may request a review at any time.
You have the right to ask questions and request changes either during the conference or later.
After the IEP Meeting
After the IEP meeting, there are a few things you can do to help ensure your child’s success throughout the year.
Maintain close contact with your child’s teachers. Two-way communication is a key to making any program work. Some families have regular meetings, some have a daily or weekly notebook, some have regular telephone calls and some e-mail. Share information and suggestions. Be supportive. There should never be any surprises on your part or on the school’s.
Ask for suggestions on how you can continue to practice and reinforce what is going on in school.
Continue to keep good records and document any unaddressed needs.
During the year, keep a list of anything you want to consider for your child's next IEP.
If you think teachers or other team members are doing a good job, tell them. Let them know when they have done something you appreciate.
You have known your child a long time. If you have discovered hints that help your child learn, share them. Offer to help teachers and others adapt materials or programs.
Remember that other people such as school bus drivers, janitors, lunchroom workers and secretaries may help your child in informal ways.
Get involved in your child’s school. Join the PTG/PTO, go to school plays and other activities, volunteer in the library. The more you are involved and the more people see you, the better you will get to know each other. This sometimes makes it easier to work together for your child.
Go over your child’s IEP every few months. Are the services stipulated in the IEP being provided? Are you satisfied? Is your child happy? If there appears to be a problem, ask for a meeting of all the people involved. If you feel it is necessary, ask for a team meeting to change the IEP. You may do this at any time.
Focus on your child's needs for services, appropriate goals and objectives, placement, etc., to achieve a full and meaningful life.
Participate in training sessions or workshops offered by the school district or other community agencies.