When IEP day arrives, do you have all your ducks in a row? Even if they aren’t all lined up quite yet, that’s ok. Keep these 8 tips in mind as you head into your child’s annual IEP meeting so that it can be more positive and productive.
1. Go in with your game plan. Take some time beforehand to meet with your child’s support team (doctor, therapist, attorney, etc.) Go into the IEP meeting with the list of goals and points you want to communicate with the school. Know who will raise each point and speak to it. This is your time to share information and have it addressed through the IEP, where appropriate. The pre-meeting is a day-of or day-before strategy that can set you up for a lot of success.
2. Take notes or designate a note taker. When the IEP process starts to unfold, it can move quite quickly. To catch all the important information, take excellent notes or designate someone on your child’s team to do so. Depending on the procedures of your child’s school, the special education case manager may take notes of the meeting on a designated form. You can always ask for a copy of those notes for your records.
3. Understand time constraints. There are a few types of time constraints to contend with in IEP meetings – from individual participant constraints to the overall time limitation of the meeting itself. Does a line of team members cycling in and out of the IEP meeting based on their work duties sound familiar? This is the reality for school folks. The school day unfortunately can’t be paused for 2 hours while an IEP meeting occurs, so some level of adaptability and understanding is needed. That said, all of the child’s service providers must either attend the IEP meeting or provide written input. If participants cannot attend the whole meeting, the school should notify you of this fact and ask permission for the individual to leave early. Turning to the total meeting time allotted, remember that if you do not discuss all the concerns or topics you wanted to, but the school is stopping the meeting, a continuation meeting must be held at another time.
4. Stick to the agenda; prioritize appropriately. In my experience, it’s often best to tackle the most important issues at the front end of the IEP meeting. Minds are more open and less drained at that point. One caveat: The all-important question of educational placement can only be fairly discussed after all other parts of the IEP have been completed. Be mindful of the conversation straying from the agenda, and never be afraid to be the one to steer it back on track.
5. Don’t skip important sections of the IEP. Time constraints or other contentious issues can cause teams to gloss over important topics such as Extended School Year (ESY) programming or transition to post-secondary life (for students that are 14+). It may be a brief discussion, but it is best to address the topic instead of walking away from the meeting not knowing what the plan is.
6. IEP goals must be data driven. IEP goals are critical because they will drive what is included in quarterly progress monitoring reports. The IEP team must base IEP goals on actual data. The team should know where the student is performing on each goal and where they would like the student to be performing in one years’ time. A simple oral reading fluency example – “Student will increase her words read correctly per minute from 65 to 90.” If no current data point exists because it is a newly added goal, then make sure to agree as a team to the time frame for collecting baseline data.
7. If things get heated, (a) keep calm and carry on or (b) shut it down and reschedule. When it comes to the most important thing to you – your kid – it’s easy to become passionate or heated. Maybe someone from the school’s team is becoming escalated by the presence of an attorney or because of a question you asked. You have a few choices if this happens. First, you can choose to breathe and continue with the meeting. Or, you have every right to calmly say the meeting has taken an unproductive turn and ask for it to be continued to another time. Almost every IEP has some type of “break” accommodation in it. We can give that to ourselves as parents, too, when it will best serve our children.
8. Do your IEP meeting homework. At the end of an annual IEP meeting, you will likely be given a copy of the IEP and perhaps a Notice of Recommended Educational Placement (NOREP) to sign. Take those documents home to review them, analyze and consult with advocates or legal counsel before signing. Even though the meeting is over, changes can still be made. You must be comfortable with the document before adding your signature.
If you’d like more personalized support in preparation for your child’s IEP meeting, call Zundel Law at 412-212-8356. We offer a 30-minute complimentary consultation to help you strategize and determine if legal services would be beneficial.