Before: Positive self-talk! If you tell yourself that everyone is against you in the meeting, then you will present with a negative attitude during the meeting. Most teachers want the best for kids and are willing to support your requests and somewhat mentor you through the educational system. Having teacher support can go a long way. If you are able to understand what resources the teacher needs in order to really help your child, then you can enlist an advocate to ask for those resources. This way, the teacher is not put on the spot, or thrown under the bus, and the “neutral” person is asking for the additional support. Keep the teacher on your team – let your advocate be the one that brings up the uncomfortable questions or suggestions.
Preparation is the key to success no matter what professional field, sport, or activity you engage in. The same holds true for IEP meetings. If you want to have a great IEP meeting then you must prepare ahead of time. When I accompany parents to IEP meetings as a professional advocate, I prepare ahead of time and don’t just show up to the meeting and try to wing it. Read over the list of academic standards for your child’s grade. This will give you a starting point to know what goals and objectives would be appropriate to ask for on your IEP. There is so much conversation and dialogue during these IEP meetings and it can be very emotionally draining. Do not attend an IEP meeting alone. Even if you dress up your neighbor and they do not say a word, their presence is a support. It is helpful to have someone taking notes for you and to bounce things off of after the meeting.
During: Stay calm. It can be overwhelming to sit at a table full of adults…but do not forget…you are an adult too! Actually, you are the most important adult at that table. It is your child that all these people are meeting about. It is within your right as a parent to excuse anyone from the meeting that you do not feel has an educationally relevant reason to be there. You have much more control and power in these meetings than you may think. If there is something you do not understand, please stop them and ask them to explain in detail. It is helpful to have your list of possible goals and objectives with you so you can refer to them as your IEP is being written. However, before the goals and objectives section of an IEP, there is a “Present Level of Performance” section that is reviewed by the team. This is a summary of how your child is CURRENTLY doing in academics and other related areas. Be sure to list all your concerns in this present level of performance – goals and objectives cannot be written if the information is not supported in the “Present Level of Performance” section. You can always ask to go back and add to this section during the meeting.
These are common questions that you may be asked about your child during the IEP meeting. Consider these in advance so you are prepared:
1. What are your child’s strengths?
2. What motivates your child to learn?
3. What are your child’s areas of weakness?
4. Have you found any techniques or strategies helpful in addressing your child’s weaker areas?
5. Do you have a goal or anything in particular that you would like your child to learn this year?
In addition, you also have the right to ask questions. Here are some examples of questions you might want to ask the team:
1. What specific learning strategies are written on the IEP?
2. Will peer tutoring by used with my child?
3. Is the IEP academic plan based on learning functional skills? (reading a recipe, ordering from a menu, counting out money, telling time, etc.)
4. At what age do you being involving my child in goal setting and self-advocacy
5. Do you feel my child qualifies for an FBA (Functional Behavior Assessment)?
After: What’s done is done, right? No! You can request an IEP meeting at any time, as many times as you would like during the school year. If you go home and read over your notes, discuss the meeting with your friend or partner and you feel something was missed, do not hesitate to call anther meeting. The IEP is a working document which means it can always be added to or changed.
Make sure you get copies of everything. Ask for a copy of the IEP, any pages you were asked to sign and the conference summary. Please read over the conference summary carefully. This summary addresses what topics were discussed during the entire meeting. If you feel something is missing from the summary or do not agree with something on the summary, you can ask that it be changed or added or deleted BEFORE you sign it. I know you are tired once the meeting comes to an end, but don’t give up yet until you feel comfortable with those conference summary notes!
Give yourself a pat on the back, these meetings can be stressful but you can feel more prepared and less overwhelmed with the proper support. For more great IEP information for any state, including thousands of goals and objectives and tons of resources, check out our website at www.seemyiep.com.
Best of luck to you and your family.