The annual IEP meeting is a great time to reconnect with parents, teachers, principals, directors, and any intervention staff to determine the best individual plan for a specific child. Unfortunately, this time of year also can bring much anxiety and tension as parents feel the need to “fight” for their child’s rights, and professionals feel that they need to defend their positions.
Here are some tips on creating a friendly IEP environment for all parties involved.
Review your child’s current IEP
(1) What goals have been met?
(2) What goals need to continue?
(3) What new goals are needed?
• Bring a list of your child’s strengths and needs. Include a list of what motivates your child. If you are not sure, ask your child and your child’s providers.
• If your child is transitioning to a new school or program, visit the school/program before the meeting.
• Bring a list of your future goals and dreams for your child. Consider what you want for your child next year, in 5 years, and in 10 years. The IEP team will ask you this – be prepared.
• Bring a list of questions. Ask your child’s providers or doctor if they have any questions that you may want to ask at the IEP meeting.
• Remember that everyone at the IEP meeting is a team. Consider all options.
• Be respectful and avoid emotional confrontations. If needed, a meeting can always continue on a different day.
• Even if you disagree, sign the IEP to show that you were in attendance at the meeting, but do not give your approval if you disagree with the IEP.
• Bring a peace offering – treats! How can someone argue with you while chewing on warm delicious brownies?!!
• Ask the IEP team if there are any parent groups or resources available in your area.
• Ask for a copy of the IEP and review it periodically. Contact your IEP team if you have a concern or issue and set up a meeting as you need throughout the year. You do not need to wait for the annual meeting to bring up your concerns.
• Be nice! It is intimidating for parents to be surrounded by an entire team of people who all know each other and have experience working together!
• Have parents sit next to an adult they know and feel comfortable with. Make sure that the seats are arranged so that parents do not feel excluded. Do not sit them across the table from the rest of the team.
• Be respectful. Parents are an equal part of the IEP team. Consider all options.
• When reviewing test results, explain these in terms that are very understandable for all parties of the IEP team. Be polite and considerate. Instead of asking “do you understand?” ask, “Would you like me to review any of these items?”
• Be prepared. Review the IEP before the meeting and be able to demonstrate why any goals may not have been met.
• Answer all questions. Upon conclusion of the meeting, even if you think you may already have addressed all the questions, ask, “Do you have any other questions or concerns that you would like to address?”
• Thank the parents for their time and for being part of the IEP team.