Blog #88~ Parent Tips for Better IEP Meetings
My 20 year old son, Nick has Down syndrome and autism. While driving to his IEP meeting last Monday it occurred to me that he only had one more of these next year. With 15+ IEP meetings under my belt I have learned a lot about how to become an effective advocate for my son. IEP stands for “Individualized Education Plan”. An IEP is done for a student who has special needs. These meetings are held each year to update the student’s current level of functioning, progress and goal planning for the following year. There was a time when I was terrified and intimidated by IEP meetings. Here are some things I’ve learned to make an IEP meeting be effective and run smoothly.
Nick’s senior portrait…… 🙂
Here are my top 10 parent tips for better IEP meetings:
1. Establish communication with all the teachers, therapists, and other key members of the IEP team via email. Send a communication notebook back and forth in your child’s back pack. Attend conferences, open house events and if you can, chaperone at field trips and volunteer in the classroom. All of these things will help to build a relationship with the staff and making you feel more comfortable.
2. Designate one notebook for all meetings, conferences and trainings related to your child. Keep a folder for the current IEP and progress reports. Review these prior to the meeting.
3. After you review your child’s goals, make notes for the support teacher/case manager of what you’d like to see for the upcoming year using an “IEP planning form”. Click on the link at the end of this blog to obtain a form.
4. Request a copy of the IEP draft (including present level of academic functioning, and all proposed goals) to review BEFORE the meeting. Go through this with a fine tooth comb making notes in red ink of any questions you have or things you would like to see added.
5. Learn your child’s educational rights. Click on Wrightslaw link provided at the end of this blog below.
6. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and seek clarification.
7. If you feel unsure or overwhelmed bring an advocate from your local support group or a seasoned IEP parent to the meeting.
8. Keep in mind that according to the law; schools do not have to offer the best, they have to offer what is “most appropriate” for your child.
9. The child should be the center of focus at the IEP meeting. A parent’s dream for their child may not be what the reality is. Keep an open mind to this.
10. You know your child the best. You are a huge part of the team, speak up!
If you have serious doubts or concerns about the IEP, ask to take it home and review it further. You are NOT required to sign it if you disagree or have any uncertainties. You only need to sign that attended the meeting. Put any concerns that you have in writing and returned them to school with the unsigned IEP. You can request another IEP meeting.
IEP Planning Form for Parents:
Special Education Rights:
IEP meetings don’t have to be a scary thing. Do your homework beforehand. If you are prepared and keep the lines of communication open, then they can run quite smoothly. That’s what is in my noggin this week! 🙂