Itâ€™s the time that parents refer to as â€śIEP season,â€ť and
many parents face it with a mixture of hope and apprehension. The IEP is an individualized document
designed to outline goals and treatment plans for children with special
needs. The IEP meeting gives
parents, teachers, therapists, school administrators, and services personnel to
work together to create and implement individualized goals.
During the IEP meeting, you will develop the IEP document,
which is a written statement that lists the support and services your special
needs child will receive to reach his goals. As a parent, you are an equal member of the IEP team, and
you have the right and the responsibility of organizing information, monitoring
progress, and making plans to avoid problems.
Follow a few steps before the session to help prepare
yourself for the IEP meeting:
- Review last yearâ€™s IEP. If this is your first IEP, familiarize
yourself with medical and educational documents for your child. Make copies of assessments from doctors
and therapists, as these papers will have information you can use for the IEP.
- Keep a diary or notes about your childâ€™s
behavior and progress. This
document will serve you well when you need to think about goals and
objectives. Think about what your
child needs, what you want him to learn or be able to do, or what services you
want offered to him (speech, occupational, music, physical therapies)
- Write a list of goals and objectives. Goals are more general than objectives;
while the goal might be â€śto improve social interaction,â€ť the more specific
objectives might be â€śMy child will use eye contact 50% of the time with her
speech therapistâ€ť or â€śMy child will take turns.â€ť The more specific you make these goals and objectives, the
better for the IEP meeting.
Consider goals in specific academic, social-emotional, speech, and
- Write a list of questions or even write a â€śscriptâ€ť
of what you want to say. You donâ€™t
necessarily have to memorize lines, but rehearsing and being familiar with
exactly what you want or what you need to know can help you steer conversations
in the IEP meeting.
During the IEP meeting, you can follow a few extra tips:
- Walk into the meeting cordially and greet
everyone who is present. You might
even want to prepare some food or snacks, especially if the meeting takes place
during a mealtime. Find an
appropriate area to hold the meeting, such as a round table; this trick will
help you all feel as if you are equal participants in the IEP meeting. If you feel uncomfortable going by
yourself, bring a spouse or close friend to act as your support system.
- Tell your story about your child -- you are the
one who knows him best -- but also stay focused and explain what you want for
your child. The educators and
therapists will explain how your child can reach those goals through the
- Be prepared to express interest in therapies and
explain which ones have been effective or not effective in the past. Be open to suggestions and listen to
the professionals and school personnel; they might see something you do not or
might have other ideas about what your child needs.
- Take notes. You might even be able to bring a device to record the IEP
meeting. If new questions arise
other than the ones you wrote down, donâ€™t be afraid to ask. If you donâ€™t understand an intervention
or potential objective, make sure you know its purpose and how it can help your
child achieve his goals.
- Do not sign the document at the initial IEP
meeting. You are allowed to take
it home to review it, and you should do so.
The IEP meeting is meant to put a document into place that
will be translated into education and therapies that will help your child meet
his goals. If you are clear about
what you want for your child and will advocate for your childâ€™s needs while
also listening to the other professionals at the table, you will end up with a
document suitable for your childâ€™s special needs.