Advice for Parents – IEP Meetings
Whether it is your first or tenth IEP Meeting, it is always good to know what you can do to maximize your voice in the IEP process.
- Speak with Everyone. Make sure that you attend the meeting whether in person or over the phone, and have heard from all members of the IEP Team as mandated by the Individual with Disabilities Act. This includes one of your child’s general education teachers, one of your child’s special education teachers, and a school district representative such as a guidance counselor or an administrator. The school can provide an interpreter if one is needed. Every three years, there is a triennial where a school psychologist interprets your child’s evaluation results. If a team member isn’t present at the meeting, request to speak with this person even if over the phone. You want to have a shared understanding of your child’s goals, performance, and accommodations with the school. You are also allowed to bring a friend or a parent advocate for support. Your child is encouraged to attend especially if they are an adolescent.
- Share your Concerns. The IEP has a section called the PLOP or the Present Level of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance. Within this section, the team notes any concerns of the parent. At the IEP meeting, be sure to share observations that you have of your child at home, strategies you notice work well with your child, and anything else that can help the team determine your child’s skill level and how they help.
- Know the SMART Goals. This stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound goals. Depending on the services provided to the student, the goals may be set by the subject teacher, speech therapist, physical therapist, vision therapist, and occupational therapist. Parents can have an input in refining the goals to make them more realistic.
- Expect a Strengths Based IEP. The strengths and capabilities of your child should be highlighted at the meeting more so than their deficits and challenges. For example, if a teacher says, “I noticed that your child wasn’t able to analyze the text of the of the story,” they should follow up with strategies that are working such as “when using a graphic organizer and working with a peer, your child is able to pull out key details from the text and recall the information a lot more consistently.” If your child is attending the IEP meeting, your child should leave the meeting with a growth-mindset. It is ok to ask the teachers for clarification on what your child’s strengths are and which tools help them the most.
- Contribute Towards the Transitional Plan. Prior to the meeting, the teachers, service providers, student, and parents are given separate vocational surveys or interviews. There is a section of the PLOP where quotes from the surveys are indicated. This information is used to inform the transitional services that the school will provide to help your child achieve their post secondary school goals. I recommend that when completing the vocational survey, you focus your child’s strengths when describing where you see them after high school.
- Follow-up. When your child is given an academic program with services, make sure that it aligns with the services that are on the IEP.
Remember that everyone is working collaboratively to achieve the best outcome for your child. By asking questions, offering observations, and sharing concerns, you and the IEP team can best work together towards developing a strong IEP with clear, measurable and achievable goals.