I have worked in the field of —as a teacher, consultant, content expert, author, speaker and professor—for almost 20 years. I’m also a parent of a child with learning and thinking differences. My son was diagnosed with , and in his early elementary school years. He also has .
Even with all this experience, it was still intimidating for me and caused butterflies in my stomach to prepare for an Individualized Education Program () meeting. Just like you, I wanted my son’s IEP meetings to go well. I wanted him to have a productive and good year in terms of instruction. I wanted him to get the services and support he needed to be successful.
I’ve learned a lot about the IEP process in 20 years. Now, looking back over dozens of IEP meetings, I can honestly say the most important thing to remember for your next IEP meeting is that you and the teachers and the other members of the IEP team are all on the same side. They want your child to learn and be successful, just like you do. They are not your enemies.
I know that’s true because I’ve seen both sides. I was a special education teacher long before I became a parent of a child with special needs. As a teacher, I wanted my students to learn and accomplish. I wanted the best for them.
But as the parent at IEP meetings for my own child, I didn’t always feel that teachers felt that way. As the parent, I often felt like I was the only one who knew what could help my child. I remember thinking at times that there was only one way to accomplish something. But the truth is when parents and teachers don’t listen to each other, we miss a lot of opportunities to work together to do what’s best for our kids.
An IEP meeting should not be a scary or anxious event in the school year. It should be a time that all people working to educate your child come together as a team. Everyone at the IEP meeting is there to work together: the school district professionals and you, as the professional for your child. By remembering that this is a time to collaborate for the sake of your child, you can set the right tone for the meeting.
Of course, not every IEP meeting will go as planned and be hunky-dory. You do have options if your child’s IEP meetings do not go well.
Make sure you check out this IEP overview, with tips on what to do before, during and after IEP meetings, as well as checklists to help you prepare. And be sure to join the online community and attend expert chats (I’ll be hosting some) if you need help with the process.
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About the author
Analisa L. Smith, EdD serves on the national board of directors of LDA. She is an education consultant and a distance education professor.