What To Do For a Child’s First IEP Meeting
- Make Use of Relationships
- Ask Questions
- Follow Up
Parents heading into their child’s first IEP meeting may need tips to make it a successful one. An Individualized Education Program is developed for children who have special needs. Parents, the child’s teacher, other staff and sometimes even the child are involved in developing an IEP.
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1. Make Use of Relationships
There are two types of relationships that can be particularly helpful for parents going into their child’s first IEP meeting. First, parents should attempt to form a relationship with someone who will be in the meeting. This could be the child’s teacher, but it might be one of the other people who will be there as well, such as the school principal or psychologist. Second, parents should consider bringing along an advocate. This can be a relative or friend who can provide support and another perspective. This needs to be cleared with the school ahead of time.
According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, there are a number of ways to prepare for the meeting. Parents going into a first IEP meeting should understand their children’s rights and get copies of any relevant paperwork, such as evaluations and the draft IEP, to read ahead of time. They may want to get any letters from tutors or other professionals who have worked with their children. Parents should also write down any questions, concerns or points they want to make during the meeting.
A parent is an equal partner in an IEP meeting. However, while parents should not hesitate to press professionals on any point they disagree with or do not understand, they should also focus on outcomes. In other words, they are likely to get more out of a meeting in which they talk about goals they want the child to achieve instead of focusing on specific methods. Of course, if the professionals suggest a course of action that is not supported by research or to which the parent has other objections, it is appropriate to find out more.
4. Ask Questions
While respecting the expertise of professionals, parents at their first IEP meeting should not be afraid to ask questions. This might be questions about their own rights or about the child’s rights, or they might be about the IEP itself. Parents should also not feel intimidated if they do not understand some of the terminology used by professionals and should ask for explanations if necessary. Finally, parents should remember that they do not have to agree to anything at the meeting. Most experts advise taking the IEP home for review before signing it.
5. Follow Up
On reviewing the IEP after the meeting, some parents may decide they are unhappy with some elements of it. They should put these concerns in writing and return it to the school. Parents should also discuss the IEP with the child. The entire process can feel stressful and overwhelming for parents, but they should keep in mind that they have the final say at all times. They can also meet with the child’s teacher or schedule additional IEP meetings to address concerns throughout the school year.
One of the reasons IEP meetings are so difficult is because parents are understandably concerned about doing what is best for their children. With the tips above, parents heading into an IEP meeting for the first time can feel confident that they can be strong advocates for their children.