Everything You Need to Know to Engage Successfully in an IEP Meeting
Parents who are unsure about how to approach their child’s IEP meeting often come in with negative expectations about the intentions of teachers and administrators in the room. Some even arm themselves with advocates and lawyers in preparation for potential arguments between team members. We understand this defensive instinct; with shrinking budgets, increasing demand for services, and a shortage of qualified pediatric specialists, parents are understandably concerned about their children receiving the exceptional and effective therapeutic services they need. Without a reliable IEP guide for parents, how can they feel comfortable during these interactions?
Though parents may be a little skeptical at first, all IEP team members genuinely want the best for your child as well. At PTS, we aim to help parents in IEP meetings build positive, respect-based relationships among the individuals working with your child. To do so, we emphasize the importance of understanding the laws that apply to you and your child’s position.
Know the Law Regarding IEPs
Too often, the school’s legal obligations, based on state and federal mandates, are different from what parents expect from the “medical” care system. By law, the IEP must include a range of information, including:
- Current performance, typically presented through evaluation results of classroom tests and assignments, individual tests for service eligibility, and observations made by parents, teachers, therapists, and other school staff members.
- Annual IEP goals, broken down into short-term objectives or benchmarks that address academics, social or behavioral needs, physical needs, or other educational needs.
- Measured progress, which demonstrates how the data on the child’s progress will be presented.
- Specific dates and places indicating when services will begin, how often they will be provided, where they will be provided, and how long they will last.
In addition to a general misunderstanding regarding what legally goes into an IEP, the transition process between early childhood services (for children aged 0-3) and pre-school/school-age programming confuses many parents as well. Children ages three and below qualify for therapy services based on where their skills fall on standardized developmental tests. Differentially, when children reach school age, the determining factor is based upon whether or not a child is sufficiently impaired and requires support services in order to access their curriculum.
Other important pieces of information to carry into the IEP meeting are the specific laws that apply to your child. According to IDEA ‘97 (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), students who require specially designed instruction to succeed in school are entitled to a free public education. Similarly, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act guarantees that students with disabilities will not be discriminated against in school. With that in mind, parents and other IEP team members must consider how related services are specifically tied to your child’s ability to succeed in the classroom.
A Parent’s Guide: Top IEP Tips
So you know the laws involved and what will generally be discussed during the IEP meeting. How can you further prepare yourself as a team player?
- Recognize you have an essential role in this meeting. The insight you bring to an IEP team is invaluable. When the person developing the IEP documents asks for your input, feel free to share things that you know are particularly helpful and/or challenging for your child.
- Focus on the bigger picture. People often assume that more is better when it comes to special education supports. However, balancing your child’s entire educational experience is the real priority to keep in mind. Your child can progress faster when therapeutic strategies and activities are carried over into the overall academic program.
- Keep your cool. IEP meetings can become emotionally charged and frustrating, especially for parents. Remember to keep calm and keep communicating; clearly articulate your concerns, ask questions, and respond respectfully to others. These methods will lead to a very successful meeting.
At PTS, we value the role of and input from all members of the special education program— and that includes you. For more information on our IEP guide for parents, please visit us here or contact us at 610-941-7020.