How to Prepare for an IEP Meeting

How to Prepare for an IEP Meeting

It’s the time that parents refer to as “IEP season,” 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 year’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 child’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 “to improve social interaction,” the more specific objectives might be “My child will use eye contact 50% of the time with her speech therapist” or “My child will take turns.”  The more specific you make these goals and objectives, the better for the IEP meeting.  Consider goals in specific academic, social-emotional, speech, and physical areas.
  • Write a list of questions or even write a “script” of what you want to say.  You don’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 interventions.
  • 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, don’t be afraid to ask.  If you don’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 child’s needs while also listening to the other professionals at the table, you will end up with a document suitable for your child’s special needs.

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Written by: Cara Batema See other articles by Cara Batema
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