Video Summary: Common Sense Approaches to an IEP

This video covers some common-sense approaches you as a parent should adopt when participating in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting. These tips come from a number of people who have participated in IEP meetings in the past, and they should help you overcome some of the fears that first-time (and veteran) IEP team members face during a meeting. They should also help the meeting go more smoothly while also letting you get more out of each meeting.

Common Sense Approaches to IEPs

1. Show up early -Showing up early to an IEP meeting has a number of advantages. First, showing up late makes the meeting stop or slow down momentarily, and entering a room full of people who have expected you will likely make you more tense, and could lead to you feel stressed out for some time after you arrive, and you could miss some vital information about your child’s IEP if you’re distracted. Second, since everyone shows up to the meeting at different times, you can easily have individual conversations with those who’ve shown up before or after you. If you’ve managed to have conversations with most of the IEP staff before the meeting starts, the atmoshpere will be more relaxed.

2.Meet the teachers prior to the meeting -If you have any issues regarding how your child is doing in class or any questions regarding their academic performance, meet with your child’s teacher(s) ahead of time to ask these questions. If you know where your child stands in that regard before you head into the meeting, you can ask more informed questions, and bring up any issues that may arise as a result of your conversation with the teacher.

3.Write down questions you want to ask and bring your list to the meeting- You should make sure you have a list of questions (or bullet points of topics you’d like to cover) ready for each IEP meeting. If you can come up with a solid list, it will prevent you from leaving the meeting and then realizing you forgot to ask an important question or have addressed a concern that you hadn’t thought of before or during the meeting.

4.Be prepared to describe your child’s strengths and difficulties- As your child’s most important advocate, you should have the best idea of what your child can do and what they may need help with. You know your child best, so it’s important that you are ready to tackle these issues in depth. If you don’t voice a concern, it may not be covered in the meeting.

5.Be prepared to discuss changes in behavior (if any)- If you notice any recent changes in your child’s behavior, you should be proactive about addressing these changes if you think they may cause a problem. It’s better that you reveal these behaviors before your child gets in trouble rather than after. If you see that a teacher brings up an issue that you’ve seen at home but haven’t been able to address, make sure you’re candid in discussing that issue. When a teacher brings up an issue, they’re not doing so in a personal manner – they want to help your child as much as possible, and want to address the issue only so that they can do their best to help.

6.Be prepared to actively discuss what goals you have for your child- The benchmarks and rules of the IEP are often assembled before the meeting, but that doesn’t mean they can’t change. If you have goals you’d like to set for your child that aren’t covered by the current version of the IEP, then you should discuss these goals about your child without feeling like you’re intruding on the authority of the rest of the IEP team. If the IEP were set in stone before the meeting, then the meeting wouldn’t have to happen in the first place!

7.Bring medical documentation- If your child has recently had a medical condition identified or had something happen to them, be sure to bring documentation of those changes or diagnoses. It’s important that the team know if they need to revise the IEP to meeting any new conditions your child may have. If you have the documentation with you when you bring the issue up at the meeting, then there’s less turnaround time in getting the proper paperwork filed.

8.Request copies of any evaluations to be discussed prior to the meeting. When you first receive notice that an IEP meeting will take place, make sure to request any evaluations your child has had ahead of time. Your child’s evaluations are usually handed out at the IEP meeting, but they’re often too complicated to fully cover in the course of the meeting. Therefore, you should have a basic knowledge of what the evaluation(s) of your child involves before the meeting, so you’re not skimming through them during the meeting and possibly missing a few important details of the meeting itself.

9.Consider bringing someone with you to the meeting for moral support- Remember that you can bring someone who may have a specific knowledge of your child. This could be a child advocate, but if you want to bring in someone you trust to provide moral support, that’s fine too. This person could also give you a second perspective on how the meeting went.

10.Don’t be afraid to ask that information be repeated, or to ask questions- Acronyms and large amounts of information are common at IEP meetings, so if you didn’t catch something or don’t know what an organization is or does, you should always ask so that you’re not falling behind in the meeting or become confused.

11.Remember that the meeting works around you- if you need to ask to take a break to care of something, remember that you can, and that the IEP meeting was specifically scheduled with you mind. If you decide that you’d like to extend the meeting to discuss a few more issues, or if you need the meeting to end on time because of some other engagement, let the rest of the team know and they will usually accommodate you.

12.You do not have to sign the IEP at the meeting; you can take it home and review it- No one will be upset if you decide that you need some more time to look over the IEP before signing it. It’s important you make sure you understand what you are signing before you follow through with it.

This concludes our look at some common-sense approaches to IEP meetings. In the next few sections, we will cover some of the rules and regulations of the IEP, as well as some case law.