Participating in the IEP Meeting (page 2)
So, your first IEP meeting is coming up. How do you get ready? Here are some suggestions.
What do I do before the meeting?
Review the information on your child-from home, school, or private sources (such as doctors, therapists, or tutors). Ask yourself, "Do these records show the full picture?" Fill in any missing pieces, if you can. (If you feel current evaluations are not complete, you may want to ask that the IEP meeting be postponed until more information can be gathered on your child. Ask the school to evaluate your child and reconvene the meeting when the results are available. Bring your records to the meeting. You can also bring examples of your child's work (on paper, audiotape or videotape) to show specific concerns or insights you may have.
Talk with your child about the upcoming IEP and ask about school. "What things are hard? What things are easy? What do you want to work on this year?" Your child may have a lot to say about his or her needs and interests. Students are often much more aware of their strengths and weaknesses than parents realize. Make notes on what your child says.
Think about your child's involvement in general education classes. Consider his or her learning style, special education needs, and social needs. How can these needs be addressed in the IEP? What kinds of supports or services might your child need in order to be successful in the general education class? Ask your child what he or she wants or doesn't want in the way of support.
If your child will be attending all or part of the IEP meeting, explain how the meeting works in a way that he or she can understand. Let your child know how important the meeting is and that his or her opinions and input are valuable. You may need to prepare your child to speak up at the meeting. Talk with your son or daughter about how to share his or her feelings about what is being proposed.
- Do a Positive Student Profile to share with the team. To do this profile, you answer questions about your child (see box below), which will help you organize your thoughts and focus clearly on your child's strengths, needs, and goals.
- Brainstorm with people (teacher, friend, family members, tutor, therapist, consultant) to get some ideas before the meeting. Write down things you feel must be included in the IEP. Decide how you want to share this information with the other members of the IEP team.
- Ask other team members if they can share their ideas about your child's program ahead of time.
- Know your rights. Review the IDEA regulations and other helpful publications (see the Resources section at the end of this publication). Take the regulations with you to the meeting in case you need them.
- Are there any areas where you and the school might disagree? Plan how you want to handle these. List any information that might support your position. Think of alternatives to offer if the school is not willing to accept your first suggestion. Decide where you can compromise and where you can't.
- Figure out who can go to the IEP meeting with you to help advocate for your child. Inviting someone to attend with you is a good idea, even if this person only takes notes. Another person may think of things during the meeting that you do not. As a courtesy, let the school know if someone will be attending the meeting with you. If an advocate will be attending the meeting with you, review your agenda together before the meeting. Above all, be sure that the advocate understands what role you would like him or her to play in the IEP process.
Doing a Positive Student Profile
Answer the following questions about your child as a way to prepare for the IEP meeting.
1. Who is ____________? (Describe your child, including such information as place in the family, personality, likes and dislikes.)
2. What are __________'s strengths? (Highlight all areas where your child does well, including school, home, community, and social settings.)
3. What are ________'s successes? (List all successes, no matter how small.)
4. What are ________'s greatest challenges? (List the areas where your child has the greatest difficulties.)
5. What are _________'s needs? (List the skills your child needs to work on and the supports he or she needs.)
6. What are our dreams for ____________? (Describe your vision for your child's future, including short-term and long-term goals.)
7. Other helpful information. (List all relevant information, including health care needs, that has not already been described above.)
What do I do during the meeting?
- Stay focused
Use your notes to keep yourself and the team on track. Keep the focus on your child's individual needs and in creating a plan that will lead to success. Remember your child's social and emotional needs, including the need to be with nondisabled peers. Encourage the other members of the IEP team to use simple language, so that anyone reading the IEP can understand and carry it out.
- Ask questions
If a team member says something you don't understand, ask the person to explain. If someone says something about your child that you don't agree with or have a question about, ask for backup information that supports the person's statement (teacher notes, checklists, evaluations). If you have different information, be sure to share it.
Make sure you don't accept or reject a goal for your child based on incomplete information. If a present level statement is appropriate, there should be data to support it. If a goal is appropriate, there should be documentation to back up the need. You want to make sure that decisions are not made based upon a single event or random observations.
- Be thorough
Make sure you agree with the language in the present levels of educational performance before you finalize goals and objectives. Try not to move away from one area until you are confident that it adequately addresses your child's needs. If you find that needed information is not available at the meeting, have the team make a note of what is missing, who will get the information, and when they will get it by. Then you can agree to move on and come back to discuss the issue when the needed information is received.
Reprinted with the permission of the Department of Health and Human Services.
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