Your Special Needs Child: 6 Tips for a Successful IEP Meeting
Do you approach your child’s annual IEP with a mixture of fear and dread? Or perhaps it’s your first time, and the anticipatory anxiety has you running for the hills? You’re not alone. Preparing for your child’s IEP isn’t easy, and IEP meetings can trigger many emotions.
While IEP (Individualized Education Program) meetings are meant to help your child by evaluating progress and establishing goals for the current year, it’s easy to get lost in the language of testing. These meetings can also feel very business-like, which doesn’t feel good when you’re talking about children.
Research and readiness can help ease the IEP process, but the truth is that it takes time to prepare for an IEP meeting (both emotionally and on paper).
Tips for preparing for an IEP meeting:
Chances are you have a lot of quick conversations with your child’s teacher during drop-off and pickup, but it’s a good idea to touch base more often. Whether by email, phone, or face-to-face conversation, the more you know about your child’s day-to-day progress (and struggles) in the classroom, the better prepared you will be when you sit down in that meeting.
Be sure to take the time to build a positive relationship with at least one member of the IEP team. The best way to humanize the IEP process is to have a team member in your corner who knows your child well and understands how your child learns, communicates, and copes on a daily basis.
Do your homework:
Don’t wait until the night before the meeting to review reports. Get out your child’s IEP and review the testing from the previous year as well as the current testing. Familiarize yourself with the goals from the previous year so that you can get specific updates on each benchmark.
Talk to other parents of students with similar IEPs. Ask about accommodations and modifications and about what seems to be working and/or not working. For a great list of common classroom accommodations and modifications, visit the National Center for Learning Disabilities.
If you’ve had private evaluations in the past year, bring copies for the team. The best way to get a clear picture of progress is to have all information readily available.
Consider an IEP planning form:
Take the time to write down your own thoughts about your child—include strengths, weaknesses, and areas of success. Putting your thoughts down on paper will help you remember what you want to address while personalizing the process on behalf of your child.
You can create your own template, or you can find one online.
IEP meetings can be both overwhelming and emotional. It helps to bring a trusted friend, family member, or other support system with you. You might get caught up in test results and miss something else during the meeting. Or you might just want someone there who can listen, take notes, and help you through the emotional moments.
Do not leave that room until all of your questions have been answered. No question is too basic, and every area of concern should be addressed. Whether or not your child is in the room, you are the voice of your child. Make sure that you walk out of that room feeling confident about the upcoming year.