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Going to an Individualized Education Plan or IEP meeting can be one of the most stressful experiences for a special needs parent, but having an IEP is important in order for your child to have a good education. IEPs are important because it helps set goals up goals and a plan of treatment so that services (SPED, OT, PT, ST) can be provided.
While planning for an IEP meeting can be stressful, one of the best things you can do is be prepared. Being prepared and reviewing the documents for an IEP meeting can help reduce stress, and help you be the best advocate you can be for your child.
The Episcopal Center for Children, a nonprofit, nondenominational school, and treatment program for children contending with emotional challenges put together a list of five ways parents can prepare for their next IEP meeting.
Preparing for Your Next IEP Meeting:
1. Confirm Meeting Attendance.
At least 10 days before an IEP meeting, you should receive a letter of invitation. As soon as possible, RSVP for the meeting in writing. Inform the school if you will attend the meeting in person or by phone. If you are not available to attend the meeting at all, propose alternative dates and times, even locations.
2. Review the Draft Documents Before the Meeting.
At least 5 business days before the meeting, you should receive drafts of the documents (e.g., IEP, Behavior Intervention Plan, evaluations) to be discussed during the IEP meeting. Take time to review these documents before the meeting.
3. Carefully Review Draft Documents and Write Down Your Questions and Notes.
Make sure you understand your child’s diagnosis. Ask for clarification of education or treatment jargon if needed. Goals and objectives should be clear. Make sure you understand start date(s), how long services are offered, and the procedures involved.
If your child is not progressing toward a goal as you had hoped, ask how this will be addressed, or if a goal should be revised. If you want more frequent updates on progress during the school year, you can request additional updates. If you think something else might help your child, come prepared to discuss it. Write down any proposed changes to the IEP and any information you would like to add.
4. Invite Additional People to the IEP Meeting if You Want Them There and Think They can Contribute.
An IEP meeting takes a “team” approach to helping your child. Take the initiative to invite individuals who have relevant knowledge or expertise regarding your child (such as, family members, coaches, community support workers, social workers, attorneys, advocates, etc.). Let the school team know additional people will attend the meeting.
5. Strive to Build a Healthy Working Relationship with the School, Treatment Providers, and the Entire IEP Team. Developing healthy and professional relationships with the school and treatment providers can help your child. Be open to discussing issues promptly, directly, honestly and courteously. Ask questions and listen carefully to answers. This will allow you to respond appropriately and avoid misunderstandings.
What about YOU? What are some things you do to prepare for an IEP meeting?