What These Parents Are Doing to Prepare for IEP Meetings
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Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) can become one of the biggest battles we fight when we parent kids with disabilities. But IEPs are necessary to support our children who receive special education. IEPs determine the services, interventions and supports our children need to succeed throughout their schooling.
When services are denied or interventions or services are not accessible, it can make an IEP meeting feel quite hostile, where parents feel they have to fight everyone else in the IEP team to get what their child needs and is entitled to by law.
Before my first IEP seven years ago, I asked a friend who was a parent advocate and who I consider to be an “IEP guru” what I should do to prepare. Her first advice was for me to get a copy of the book, “Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy.” (One of our readers later echoed this: “Read up on Wrightslaw,” Allison G. wrote on Facebook.) My copy is highlighted, underlined and has notes on the margins. It was one of the best things I could have done to prepare. It also helped me understand what the law entitles my kids.
Now, I write my own goals for literacy, math, science, speech, social and emotional development, etc. and send them to the case manager in advance. I also request a copy of the IEP draft a few days before the meeting (which should include my goals), and I consider myself to be the one who leads the IEP meeting. I don’t love IEP meetings, but I see them as necessary means to get what my kids need from educators.
There is no “one way” to prepare for an IEP meeting, just like there is no one answer on whether or not to have kids present during their own IEPs, so we reached out to our Mighty parents and asked them, “What do you do to prepare for IEP meetings?”
These were their responses:
1. “[I] make a list of everything I want to bring up. [I] show up with all his grade reports, write ups, doctor notes, etc. [I learned] the lingo and what certain abbreviations mean so [the IEP team doesn’t] talk ‘over my head.'” — Bobbie A.
2. “I request a draft and a copy of all evaluations in advance. I let the case manager know I’ll be audio recording the meeting (this saves me from being distracted by trying to take copious notes; I can focus on the meeting and ask questions). I also ask that we save progress for later so we can get through the full IEP because going over how well everything is going takes a long time and I don’t want to run out of time to discuss services and goals. I try to bring some of our in-home supports into the meeting as well and bring a list of questions and goals I already have in mind.” — Tine C.
3. “I read old [IEPs], not just [from] the year before. I look at progress or lack [of it]. I discuss new interests and strategies that help my kid. I look up new laws or treatments or ideas. I consult with private providers. I try to do private testing to compare with school, if school is doing testing. I openly communicate throughout the year with everyone.” — Ledia W.
4. “Bring support along with you, and discuss your personal objectives and goals to introduce in the IEP. I would always focus on the things my daughter can do and accomplish and build from there. I was very clear that we were not having an IEP meeting about all the things my daughter can’t do… you are their voice.” — Panesha G.
5. “I request a draft a week in advance. That way we can go over details and changes in the meeting itself. Also, it minimizes surprises. I hate surprises.” — Meggie K.
6. “I ask my son how he thinks things are going and if there needs to be any changes to his plan. We brainstorm possible solutions that he’d be OK with. Now that he’s a junior, I really try to have him be more of a leader in the meetings. I like to sit across from him so I can read his body language better, so he doesn’t just agree to everything being proposed to him.” — Dee T.
7. “I listen to Kendrick Lamar in the car on the way there so I feel like a bad ass.” — Lacy C.
8. “I write the IEP and send it to the teacher before the beginning of school, email every few weeks to check on progress of final draft and hope they include the most important goals. Then I present my argument for my draft before the meeting and we fine-tune and compromise at the meeting.” — Elizabeth E.
9. “Write down questions and concerns you may have before going! We tend to forget them otherwise!” — Nadine A.
How do you prepare for an IEP? Let us know in the comments.
Getty image by artisticco