An individualized education plan (IEP) is a key component of your child’s special education plan. By law, schools are required to provide services to kids who qualify. An IEP meeting is where goals will be set and which services will be provided are decided on by both educators and the child’s guardians. This can be very intimidating for parents. With preparation and research prior to the meeting, parents will feel more informed and confident during the meeting.
The time spent before will lead them to be better advocates for their child while developing a plan that will help the child have more success in school while keeping everyone happy. Below you will find 6 steps to help best prepare you for your child’s IEP meeting.
Talk to the Teacher
It is important to talk to your child’s teacher to determine how things are going at school. The teacher can help identify your child’s strengths and challenges and may suggest what services would be helpful to them. If possible, observe your child in the classroom to get a feel for how social interactions and classroom learning are going. Knowing this information, as well as their current math and reading levels, will help you assist in setting goals during the IEP meeting.
The school should send home a notice of meeting that states who will attend the IEP meeting, the reason for meeting, and, if applicable, goals set in the previous IEP meetings. Carefully read the information sent home so you understand what to expect. You may also consider studying special education laws that pertain to your child’s needs so you know what services you can legally ask for. There are many websites and books available to help parents prepare for IEP meetings as well. The more knowledge you have, the more confident and comfortable you will feel during the meeting.
Prior to the meeting, write down questions you would like to ask at the meeting. This is also a great time to consider what visions and goals you have for your child and make note of them. Bring your notes with you to the meeting so you can refer to them throughout the process. Having a list of questions and an idea of goals you would like to see your child reach will help you make sure that you cover everything you had hoped even if the emotions of the meeting make it more difficult to remember your questions and concerns. Don’t be afraid to ask for additional services for your child. The school may not provide everything you had in mind but it never hurts to ask.
Collect any paperwork you need or would like to bring to the meeting and gather it in one place so it is neat and organized for the meeting. Bring your notes from your observation, your list of questions and goals you would like to set, and any medical paperwork that pertains to the IEP meeting. If you have had any private evaluations done, bring copies of those as well.
Bring an Advocate
Because IEP meetings can be intimidating, it can be helpful to bring an advocate to the meeting with you. This could be a lawyer or, simply, a spouse or co-parent. Having a person there both for support and to be another advocate for your child can be a good boost of confidence for the parent to help ensure you meet the goals you would like for your child. Be sure to let your school know, in advance, who will be attending the meeting with you.
You know your child best and are the best person to represent their needs, challenges, and successes. While it can be emotional and overwhelming to address issues your child is facing when it comes to learning, setting goals and ensuring the proper services are provided is the best thing you can do for your child’s success in school. Dress appropriately for the meeting, bring the documents and notes you prepared, and speak confidently and lovingly about your child. Your preparation and concerns will be apparent to everyone at the meeting and you will have the reassurance that you were prepared and did your best to help your child be successful in school.
Sarah Lyons is a freelance writer and contributes her work to numerous parenting magazines throughout the US.