As your child’s parent you are not only an equal member of the IEP team, you are in every respect your child’s project manager/advocate. It is your right and responsibility to organize information, make plans, monitor progress, anticipate problems, and keep the team focused.
To ensure meaningful participation in the IEP process, it is highly recommended that parents plan and prepare for the IEP meeting. The following suggestions are offered:
Before the Meeting
- Keep an organized master file of educational, medical, and other pertinent records.
- Obtain and review current reports and records from the district.
- Obtain and review appropriate reports and records from outside agencies.
- Review last year’s IEP
- Send copies of any private assessment reports to the IEP team ahead of time so they can be familiar with the data before the meeting.
- You are the expert on your child, prepare and provide a listing of additional background information that will help the school staff better understand your child.
- Identify and prepare a list of goals and objectives to be addresses in the IEP. Include specific academic, social-emotional, and functional areas.
- It helps to have a script to refer to. Plan ahead and put your thoughts down on paper so you won’t forget to mention important issues and questions.
At the Meeting
- Be on time or early! Greet all the members of the IEP team cordially. Choose your place at the table wisely – don’t line up like it’s an interrogation, create a round table forum.
- If you are uneasy about the meeting, bring a trusted person, (i.e. spouse, partner, relative, or friend) as a support system.
- If you feel it is warranted, consider including an advocate to serve as an objective moderator.
- Personalize the process. When you talk about your child make him/her recognizable. Tell your child’s story.
- Keep focused on what you want answered or provided for your child, not on how to get there – that’s the job of the professionals.
- Be sure you have a through understanding of the assessment data that is provided. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and seek clarification.
- Be prepared to discuss methods and materials that have been effective with your child, as well as those that have not.
- Be prepared to review possible placement alternatives if placement is a question. If possible make arrangements through the school district to observe prospective placement sites.
- Take notes! If you wish, you may audiotape the meeting so that you can review the proceedings later on. However, you will need to notify the district ahead of time of your intentions.
- If you are unable to come to an agreement on specifics on the IEP, you do not have to sign it. Or, if you want to take some additional time to review it, ask to take it home. Return the signed IEP to school as soon as possible.
After the Meeting
- Review the agreed upon IEP to make sure you understand it. If you have any concerns, or are unclear on any area, contact one of the IEP team members for further explanation, or request another IEP meeting.
Remember, you can always change your mind and withdraw permission for any or all parts you agreed to.
- Talk to your child about what was discusses at the meeting. Be sure to include the progress he/she has made. Review goals and objectives and any program changes.
- Share meeting information with your spouse and any individuals who have regular contact with your child.
- Keep your school informed about any changes in your child, or in your home, that might affect his or her classroom program.
- Develop and maintain an on-going collaborative relationship with all school staff who interacts with your child, including your child’s classroom teacher and the other professionals or paraprofessionals involved in his/her program. Spend time in the your child’s classroom.
*Remember that the IEP is only a piece of paper until it is translated into meaningful, ongoing instructional practice.