How to Prepare for Your Special Needs Child’s Annual IEP Meeting
An IEP is an Individualized Education Program. It’s a document that outlines the services and support your child needs in order to be successful in school. The IEP also includes academic goals that your child can reasonably reach with these supports in place.
To qualify for an IEP, a child must have a disability that negatively impacts his learning and performance in school. He must need special education or other services “to benefit from the general education program.”
Once an IEP is in place for your child, you’ll have an annual meeting to review the document and ensure it still reflects your child’s strengths and needs. These meetings can be intimidating and overwhelming, but here are a few tips you can follow to get prepared.
What Will Happen at the Meeting?
First, you should know what to expect at the IEP annual meeting.
Data and observations from your child’s teachers will be reviewed in order to assess your child’s current performance in school, as well as his progress toward the annual goals listed on the IEP. Together, you’ll update your child’s goals for the upcoming school year.
Next, you’ll talk about how well the accommodations and supports your child currently has are working for him. Are any of these supports unnecessary? Are there any additional accommodations he may need based on his current performance and his new academic goals?
Changes to the IEP will be noted, and you’ll be asked to sign these changes. If needed, you’re allowed time to think about it before signing the document.
Remember that this meeting is an opportunity for you to advocate for your child and ensure that his individual educational needs are being met.
Know Your Rights
You have several legal rights in place, including:
- You may record the meeting if you let the school know 24 hours in advance.
- If you can’t be present at the meeting, you may participate via phone.
- You may bring a trusted friend or advocate to the meeting with you, but let the school know who will be attending.
- If necessary, you may also bring a lawyer to the IEP meeting.
- The school must arrange for a translator or interpreter to be present if you are deaf or speak a language other than English.
Talk to your child’s teachers ahead of time to prevent any surprises at the meeting. Be aware of your child’s current performance in school so you can help generate goals and suggest revisions to the IEP.
Review your child’s current IEP and progress made toward his goals, and organize any necessary paperwork. You want to be able to participate in the meeting on an equal basis with the rest of the IEP team. Being informed will also help you feel more comfortable and make you a more effective advocate for your child.
Plan in advance for any goals or accommodations you would like to suggest, and be prepared to explain the reasoning behind these ideas. Speak up at the meeting and share your own insight about your child; don’t leave everything up to the rest of the team.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something. You may find that other members of the IEP team use educational jargon and abbreviations, so ask for clarification if needed.
You’re the parent, and it’s vital for you to understand and participate fully in the meeting.
Ensure that the school gives you a copy of your child’s completed IEP, and file it with the rest of his educational paperwork.
Read through the IEP carefully, and communicate regularly with his teachers to check his progress and make sure that he is receiving all appropriate accommodations and support.
If you find you aren’t satisfied with the IEP and would like changes, put this request to the school in writing.
Following these tips will help you advocate for your child and ensure he has the support he needs to learn and succeed in school.