What should you do during your child’s IEP meeting? Here are five ways to advocate for your child and be an effective team member.
1. Talk about your child.
No one on the IEP team knows your child the way you do. Share your perspective on your child’s personality, struggles, and strengths. You don’t have to limit what you say to academics. Talk about how your child does on sports teams and other activities outside of school. This helps the team know more about your child’s abilities and interests.
If someone brings up an issue or solution you’re not sure of, hear them out. Sometimes challenges come up in school that you don’t see at home. After all, school is a different environment, with different rules and expectations. By working together, you can make the plan that best suits your child’s needs.
Special education laws and programs are complicated. Even if you’re well prepared, you may hear new terms during an IEP meeting. When this happens, ask for an explanation. You have a right to understand every detail and decision. You can even ask in advance for someone to take notes during the meeting. Then ask for a copy of the notes at the end of the meeting.
Make sure the team understands your expectations and goals for your child. This keeps everyone on the same page as you work together on a plan. Ask questions about what the team proposes. You can suggest changes, too. If you’re not sure how something supports the goals for your child, share that concern.
5. Speak up for your child’s rights—and yours.
For example, if you’re told the district won’t cover certain services, ask to see the section of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that supports that. If you’re unsure about the IEP draft, don’t feel pressured into signing it. (Signing the attendance page doesn’t mean you agree with the IEP; it just means you attended.) Exercise your right to take the IEP draft home and think it over. Be polite but firm.