7 Things Parents Should Know Prior to Going to an IEP Meeting

It’s getting to be that time of year again… IEP Season! It is unfortunate, but IEP meetings can bring tremendous anxiety to parents. Some parents stress about these meetings, while others seem very confident and collected. Any discussion, where your child’s strengths and weaknesses will be discussed so openly can make even the calmest parent nervous or defensive. While this is not the intention of the school, it is a reality. Here are 7 things parents should know prior to going into an IEP meeting to help alleviate your stress.

1. What is an IEP? An IEP is an Individualized Education Plan created for your son or daughter who has been found eligible for special education services. This is a legal document that will detail the services, accommodations, goals, and objectives for your child. The IEP committee will work together to determine appropriate placement, accommodations, etc. If the service is included in the IEP, the school system must provide it.

2. Who will be there?
The IEP committee consists of parents, the case manager (usually the special education teacher), an administrator, a regular education teacher, related services professionals (when applicable), and possibly any other professional in the school that works with your child. Parents are permitted to bring an advocate to the meeting if desired.

3. What exactly will be discussed?
The case manager will typically bring a draft of the IEP to the meeting. The committee will carefully go through the IEP and determine if the contents of the IEP are appropriate and acceptable to all. Your child’s strengths and weaknesses will be discussed, as well as progress made. The committee will discuss the type of services to be offered and the amount of time in those services. Necessary accommodations will be addressed. Goals and objectives will be decided upon. These goals should be measurable and realistic.

4. Know your rights as a parent. Parents are typically given a book with rights in lengthy and difficult to understand legal terms. In many states there is a parent friendly handbook, so check about that. There are websites out there that can help you know your rights such as http://schoolpsychologistfiles.com/ and http://www.wrightslaw.com/.  The most important right you should know going into an IEP meeting, is that you do not have to sign immediately and the IEP will not go into effect until parents have signed. If something does not feel right, wait to sign, think it over, post a question in a trusted forum, or seek advice from an advocate.

5. Remember that you are an expert also. You are the expert on your child and know your child better than anyone else at the table (unless your child is at the meeting). Don’t be overwhelmed by being in a room full of educational experts.

6.You can request another IEP meeting at any time. If after trying the services in the IEP plan, you feel that something different is necessary, parents can request another IEP meeting. Share your concerns with the case manager and possibly the administrator.

7. Try to make friends with the IEP committee. These are the people who will be spending hours with your child. It is important to try to work together as a team. Children experience the best success when families and schools work together.

Good luck!

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