An individualized education program (IEP) meeting occurs at least once a year. It involves a conversation between the parents of a child with special needs and representatives of their school district. From the meeting, the school district will develop a written plan for the child’s education. A parent should understand their child’s rights going into this meeting so that they feel comfortable with asserting those rights and advocating for their child’s needs. To learn about the law, they can ask the school to provide them with the federal laws and regulations governing special education.
Parents can research the potential options for their child before the meeting, including supplemental services offered by their school district and other school districts. They can consult other parents of children with disabilities to learn about the programs developed for their children, and they can discuss their child’s needs with teachers and any school district staff who oversee special education. At the meeting, they should feel free to ask questions and push back against options that do not meet their child’s needs. Many schools struggle with funding or staff deficiencies, which can affect the range of options that they provide. While these issues cannot be avoided, the school still has a responsibility to respect a child’s legal rights.
Preparing for an IEP Meeting
Carefully preparing for the IEP meeting in advance can reap significant rewards, even if you have gone through several IEP meetings in the past. One of the most important steps to take involves reviewing the IEP form for your school district. You should understand the sections that it will contain, which may cover the learning environment for your child, the specific goals set for your child during the next year, and any supportive services that will be necessary to further your child’s education. If your child is a teenager, the IEP form may provide a section for transition services, which involve vocational and advanced placement issues. Once you have reviewed the IEP form, you may want to craft the ideal IEP for your child. You should not assume that this will become the actual IEP, but developing a blueprint of your goals will help you explain your perspective during the meeting. It may give you insights into the facts that you need to prove to establish your child’s eligibility for the desired accommodations.
To this end, you should collect all of the evidence that supports your view of your child’s needs. Sometimes medical records from your child’s doctor or an independent assessment by a third party can help bolster statements by their teacher. You should set aside the time to discuss your child’s situation with their teacher and understand the ways in which your child’s school performance is evaluated, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Then, you can organize all of the relevant documents in a binder and divide them into sections so that you can refer to them efficiently during the IEP meeting.
Parents may feel more comfortable if they know in advance who will represent the school district at the meeting and the position that they will take. Any special education staff likely will attend the meeting, as well as your child’s teacher and other school personnel who may be relevant to treating their disability. The teacher is the most important person at the meeting other than the parents, since they will have worked with the child more regularly than other school staff. If you are concerned that you will face resistance to your goals, you can bring your child’s doctor or other professionals who support your position to the meeting. Or you can ask them to provide you with a written statement describing your child’s needs.