As spring arrives, many families are preparing for their child’s annual IEP meetings. Whether you are planning for a significant transition next year, or just advocating for better goals and services, we wanted to provide some tips to help you prepare for annual IEP meetings, and get the most out of the process once you are there.
The first, and most important, step for a successful IEP meeting is preparation. This can be a daunting task, of course, but here are five simple steps that can help you feel more confident and ready for this year’s process.
1. COLLECT RECORDS. Collect any private evaluations, medical documentation, progress reports or other new information you have received about your child since your last IEP meeting. Also, contact any private service providers that have been working with your child this year, and ask that they provide you with an update on your child’s progress and current needs. You may even ask that they provide a written statement to support specific recommendations or requests for the IEP team. This will help you understand how professionals outside the school see your child, and may provide helpful support that you can share with the school team to advocate for desired changes.
2. CONSIDER OBSERVING. If you have not seen your child in his/her current placement, or if you have concerns about the appropriateness of his/her placement, consider asking to observe your child at school prior to the IEP meeting.
3. ASK FOR DRAFTS IN ADVANCE. Contact your child’s case manager and ask that he/she provide you with a draft of the IEP and any other data or documents that will be discussed during the meeting. This will allow you to review everything in advance, so you can be prepared with questions and desired changes.
4. ORGANIZE YOUR THOUGHTS. Make lists of the progress you have seen your child make in the last year, the progress you would like to see next year, and any specific concerns. These can be used as helpful talking points for you during meetings to help you make sure all of your concerns are addressed by the team.
5. WRITE PARENT CONCERNS. Write a statement (incorporating the items from your lists) that you can email to school staff and ask to be included in the parent concerns section of the new IEP. This can be anywhere from a paragraph to a few pages, and can be pasted directly into the IEP document so that your concerns are expressed in your own words.