Navigating IEP meetings

What happens at an IEP meeting? And how do you prepare? This guide can help you be ready for your child’s next IEP meeting.

Now that your child is getting an , you’ll want to understand the basics of IEP meetings. By attending these meetings, you can help shape the program and monitor your child’s progress.

Keep reading to learn how to prepare for IEP meetings and be ready to advocate for your child.

The purpose of IEP meetings

The initial IEP meeting begins your child’s program. It must take place within 30 days after the school decides your child is eligible. Once the IEP is finalized, your child will receive services and supports.

After that, the requires annual IEP meetings. But you can ask for meetings anytime. These yearly meetings review your child’s progress and discuss next year’s plan. The goal is to revise and update your child’s IEP so that it continues to meet their needs.

Read more about how IDEA protects your child.

What happens at IEP meetings

There’s no set way that IEP meetings must be run. But they do have to cover certain bases. To begin with, the school must give you advance notice of the time and place of the IEP meeting. They should also try to schedule it at a time when you can attend.

At the meeting, participants will review the draft of the IEP together. It’s a draft because discussion during the meeting may result in changes. If it’s your child’s first IEP, the team may go over and explain the evaluation results.

The team will also review these three things:

Everyone will share their ideas and suggestions. The team leader will note changes to the draft that the whole team, including you, has agreed to. You’ll be asked to sign the IEP document to show you approve of it.

You don’t need to sign it right then and there. You can ask to take it home and review it. There are certain things you should double-check before signing. And if you don’t agree with the draft, it’s OK to decline to sign.

Download a checklist of what to consider when developing IEP goals.

The IEP team

Several people attend IEP meetings and form your child’s IEP team. One of the team members from the school will act as your child’s case manager. That person will oversee the process and make sure your child is getting the services and supports in the IEP. The case manager can be your go-to person when you have questions or concerns.

Several teachers who know how your child learns are part of the team. One is your child’s general education teacher. Another is at least one of your child’s special education teachers.

Someone from the district who can approve the resources in the plan will attend the meeting. And someone who can interpret evaluation results will also be there.

While you don’t have to attend, your child’s school must invite you (parent or guardian) to each IEP meeting. Attending lets you give input on the help your child is receiving and their progress. You can also bring helpful people to the meeting, like a relative or a special education advocate. If you need to, you can also ask for a translator to attend.

By the time your child is 16, the meeting will also include transition planning. At that point (if not sooner), your child will be at the IEP meetings.

Learn more about the IEP team.

How to prepare for IEP meetings

Come prepared with all the things that can help you have a productive meeting. These include a notepad or recording device (if your state allows one), your child’s last IEP, and a list of accommodations you’d like to propose. Having a binder of all the materials can help.

You should also be prepared to ask questions and point out your child’s strengths, talents, and abilities. This can help the team understand your child better. The team can also use that information to weave strengths-based goals into the IEP.

Know that an IEP meeting may be emotional. It’s common for some parents to either get upset or cry at meetings. Even when you know the IEP will provide help, it can be hard to accept that your child needs it.

Finally, people may disagree over aspects of the IEP. Having a good working relationship tends to keep everyone focused on what’s best for your child.

Brush up on phrases that can defuse the situation when people disagree over aspects of an IEP.

Preparing for what’s next

Learn how to stay on top of your child’s IEP. That’s the next important step. You can also connect with experts and other parents to find out how they’ve navigated the process in Understood’s Wunder app. Explore a collection of IEP personal stories.


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