Preparing for IEP Meetings:
Answer: Your child’s IEP team must have all important, relevant information about your child to prepare a good IEP. If you want a good IEP for your child, you need to share your concerns and information you have about your child. This will help the IEP team do its job.
Sharing Information and Concerns
If the IEP team is aware of the parents’ concerns and what the parents want for their child, the team can do a better job.
Parents should give information to the team at least several days before the team is scheduled to meet. Some parents are afraid that if they give information to the team too soon, the team will find more reasons to say "no".
Parents should not use this as an excuse to hold back important information from the team or to keep information from the team until the day of the IEP meeting. If the IEP team does not want to use information provided by the parents, they won’t use that information, regardless of when you provide it.
Be considerate. Give the team your information well in advance of the IEP meeting.
Many parents find that when they provide information about their child and their ideas about their child’s educational program in writing several days before the meeting, the child receives a better IEP.
No One Likes Surprises
Assume you turn up at your child's IEP meeting with several pages of new information or a new evaluation on your child. The IEP team was not aware of this information until you present it during the meeting.
Change the facts. Do you remember how you felt during your first special education meeting? You walked into the room and sat in a little chair with lots of school folks who appeared to be sitting in big chairs.
Everyone was well-dressed. One person asked to be called “Doctor.”
Someone handed you a long report that included words and terms that you were unfamiliar with. The “Doctor” read the report aloud quickly. Someone asked you if you had any questions. Confused and embarrassed, you mumbled, “No”.
You may not remember much about that IEP meeting because you were upset, confused, overwhelmed, and perhaps a little angry. You knew the meeting was important. Because you did not have the written report before the meeting, you did not have an opportunity to read it, study it, or formulate any questions. When you received the report during the meting, you did not know what to say or do.
This is what happens to IEP team members when you wait until the day of the IEP meeting to give them information about your child. When you take them by surprise, some members will feel angry and upset because they were not prepared for your surprise. Some will assume you did not give them the information before the meeting because you do not trust them.
Do you want the people who are building your child’s IEP to be angry and frustrated? Do you think the team will do a great job on the IEP if they are upset and frustrated with you? Of course not.
Do not spring surprises on the IEP team. This is not the time to "pay them back" for surprising you earlier. Do not let the past actions of others affect your behavior in the present.
You need to give the team all the information they need, in writing, several days before the meeting.
The response of your child's IEP team may be a pleasant surprise!
Parent Threats: Refusing to Sign the IEP - Pat has advice for a parent who is refusing to sign the IEP until the school provides the services she wants.
What to Do When the School Ignores Your Requests - Pat offers commonsense advice to a parent who is frustrated because the school has ignored her requests for help.
Pat Howey is an advocate who has helped parents obtain special education services and resolve special education disputes.
Pat is an active member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) and other organizations.
Read more of Pat's answers to questions submitted by people just like you in Ask the Advocate.