By Kristin Stanberry
Preparation is the key to being an effective, confident advocate at your child’s IEP meetings. Here are five important things to do before an IEP meeting.
Pull out your copies of official documents, including your child’s current IEP, recent progress reports and report cards. Collect samples of your child’s homework, tests and notes from the teacher. Gather your own notes and observations. Review what you have and look for topics and trends that need attention. Where is your child making progress or still struggling? What supports and services are (or are not) helpful? Are there any new challenges to report?
If you think you’ll need support at the meeting, invite someone to join you. This could be a friend or family member, a professional who works with your child, or an advocate. Explain how you think they can help. If necessary, ask to meet with them before the meeting to discuss your concerns, get their input and plan your approach. If your child will attend the IEP meeting, make time to prepare your child.
After you review your records and discuss the issues with your child, family and invited guests, you may have a lot on your mind. It can help to draft a simple list of the points you plan to make during the IEP meeting. Boil it down to the basics: your concerns, questions and suggestions. You can refer to this list during the meeting. Create a folder with this list on top, and all of the backup documents inside.
Let the IEP team leader know about any guests you plan to bring to the meeting. Provide their names and explain their relationship to you and your child. If you or any of your guests will need special arrangements, such as video conferencing or a translator, let the team leader know in advance.
Once you have everything in order for the meeting, try to relax and focus on your child’s strengths, interests and challenges. Listen to what your child says about school and learning. Remember that you know and understand your child better than anyone else on the IEP team does. That mindset will help you approach the IEP meeting with strength and confidence.
Emotions can run high at IEP meetings. But it’s important to focus on the end goal: helping your child. Here are 10 stay-calm phrases you can use to redirect conversation and defuse tense situations.
Your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) has been set in motion. How well is it working? Is the school delivering what it promised? Try these tips to monitor the situation throughout the year.
Kristin Stanberry is a writer and editor specializing in parenting, education and consumer health/wellness.
Barbara Hubert, M.S.Ed., an adjunct instructor at Hunter College, teaches grad students how to create supportive, accessible, inclusive classrooms.
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