10 tips for a better IEP meeting

Getting ready for your next IEP meeting? Watch this video or read the transcript as an expert from Understood counts down our top tips for meeting with your child’s IEP team.

IEP meetings can be challenging and emotional. But by following a few important tips you can help get the support your child needs in school. 

In this video, we’ll count down our top 10 tips for a better IEP meeting.

Tip 10: Gather and review documents ahead of time

IEP meetings involve a lot of paperwork. The more information you have organized ahead of time, the more productive the meeting will be. 

Before the meeting, gather copies of all official documents. This includes your child’s IEP as well as any recent progress reports and report cards. Ask the teacher for samples of your child’s homework, tests, and student notes. Also, be sure to ask the school for copies of any important reports. 

As you look over the documents, ask yourself, “Where is my child making progress? Or still struggling? What supports and services are helpful? Are there any new challenges?”

Tip 9: Invite allies and supporters

It isn’t easy to sit through a long meeting and talk about your child’s struggles. If you need support, invite someone to join you. It’s your legal right.

It could be a friend or a family member. Or it could be a professional who works with your child, or an advocate.

Explain to them ahead of time how you think they can help. You might even ask to connect with them before the meeting to discuss your concerns, get their input, and plan your approach. 

Once you decide who to bring, make sure you let the school know before the meeting date.

Tip 8: Create a list of your questions and concerns

After reviewing your child’s records and getting input, there may be lots of things you want to discuss at the meeting. It can help to draft a simple list of the points you plan to make. 

Try to get it down to the basics. List your concerns, questions, and suggestions. You can refer to this list during the meeting. 

Tip 7: Be clear on the goals for your child

What are your goals? For example, you may want your child to read at grade level or be prepared for college. Make sure the IEP team understands your expectations.

During the meeting, the IEP team (that includes you) will decide on IEP goals that will guide your child’s plan. These goals should align with your personal goals for your child. 

Together, the team can figure out the best resources and instructional approaches. Be sure to ask questions about what other team members propose. You can even suggest changes yourself.

Tip 6: Be open-minded and collaborative

Everyone on the IEP team brings something to the table. School staff can offer experience and understanding of your child’s needs and strengths. 

If someone brings up an issue or a solution that you’re not sure about, hear them out. Sometimes issues come up in school that don’t appear at home. School is a different environment. There are different rules and expectations.

By working with the IEP team and your child’s teacher, you can better address all of your child’s needs. 

Tip 5: Share your expertise

No one else on the IEP team knows your child the way you do. The other team members may be experts on education, but you’re an expert on your child. So don’t be afraid to speak up. 

Share your perspective on your child’s personality, strengths, interests, struggles, and successes. Describe how your child behaves when doing homework, playing sports, and doing other activities outside of school. This will give the team insights into your child and ideas for how to provide the right type of support.

Tip 4: Advocate for yourself and your child

Special education and IEPs can be complicated. Even if you’re well prepared, you may hear new terms during an IEP meeting. When this happens, ask for an explanation. 

There are no dumb questions. It’s your right to understand every detail and decision. If you’re unsure about the IEP drafted in the meeting, don’t feel pressured into agreeing to it. 

You have the right to take the drafts home and think it over. After the meeting, be sure to stay in touch with the team. Following up on what the rest of the team said it would do is an important part of advocacy.

Tip 3: Get your child involved

At some point, you may want to have your child attend or even lead their own IEP meetings. But even before then, it’s important to get your child involved in the process.

Before you go to an IEP meeting, ask your child what’s going well in school and what isn’t. You may be surprised at how insightful kids can be. 

After the IEP meeting, make sure to tell your child what happened in an age-appropriate way. Talk about any new services or changes. 

When kids get involved early, it helps them get ready to take responsibility for their own education someday.

Tip 2: Focus on your child’s strengths

In IEP meetings, it’s easy to get bogged down in all the areas where your child struggles. Make sure to spend some time in the meeting focusing on your child's strengths. It’s as simple as asking “What is my child doing well in class? In what areas did my child score highly on any evaluations?” 

Think about ways you can harness those strengths to help your child make progress in school. 

Tip 1: Keep track of everything in one place

And the top tip for a better IEP meeting is this: Keep track of everything in one place. 

How can you keep track of the test results, report cards, official documents, and other paperwork related to your child’s IEP?

We suggest putting all important documents in an IEP binder. You can also use the binder to keep track of notes you’ve taken at IEP meetings, and concerns you’ve jotted down. 

Need help with organization? Check out these free IEP binder downloads.

In this set of downloads, you’ll get:

  • An IEP binder checklist

  • A school contact sheet

  • A communication log

  • And an IEP goal tracker

It’s truly a game-changer if you want a better IEP meeting. 

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