IEP Tips for Parents & Teachers: Before, During, After the Meeting

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School has started. Your first IEP meeting is approaching.  Both parents and teachers are anxious about what this year will bring.  What will happen at the first IEP meeting? What can you do to ensure a productive meeting?

Here are some Tested Tips for IEP Meetings from CADRE that parents and teachers can use.

CADRE suggests school staff (“Conveners” of IEP meetings) do this to prepare for the meeting.

For Educators – Prepare for the IEP Meeting

  • Explain crucial nature of parent’s involvement and what will happen at the meeting.
  • Invite parents to bring anyone they wish.
  • Explain who will be there from the school and why. Ask the parent(s) if anyone has been left out.
  • Schedule convenient time and location, and ample time for meeting – very disruptive to have people coming and going.
  • Establish if parent(s) need help with transportation or childcare.
  • Invite parents to review relevant documents prior to meeting, encourage classroom visits.
  • Keep parents advised of progress on an ongoing basis – an IEP meeting is a bad place to spring a surprise.

During the IEP Meeting

  • Make parents feel welcome.
    • Greet at door
    • Cup of coffee?
    • Same size chairs for everyone
    • Brief pre-meeting chit-chat and acclimatization
  • Everyone introduce themselves and explain why they are there.
    • Everyone be addressed with the same degree of formality
  • Speak in clear, plain language – avoid jargon and discipline-specific terminology
  • Have specific materials available that are referred to.
  • Focus on the child’s individualized needs – not your program, classroom, or resource limitations.
  • Listen carefully.
  • Maintain confidentiality – don’t discuss other students.
  • Don’t hurry.
  • Be honest and trust that the parent is also.
  • Be willing to say “I don’t know”.
  • Involve student for at least a portion of the meeting if they can contribute and always if 18 or over.

After the Meeting

  • Review and evaluate.
    • What worked?
    • What didn’t?
    • Incorporate into future meetings
    • Consider building meeting tip file for each child – sources of anger, joy etc.
  • Send home thank you note.
  • Write down specific suggestions about things parents can do at home to help.

For Parents – Prepare for the IEP Meeting

CADRE provides these suggestions to help parents plan and prepare for the meeting.

  • Prepare notes about what you want to learn/find out at the meeting.
  • Prepare notes about what you want your child to learn in school.
  • Bring a picture of your child if they won’t be attending.
  • “If this were your child…?” use this questioning strategy.
  • Ask for additional time to consider important decisions if you’re uncomfortable making them on the spot at the meeting or want to get additional input.
  • Look for opportunities to express gratitude to teachers and related staff.
  • Bring someone along as a source of support.
  • If compromising, define how and when to evaluate if compromise is working.
  • Try to remain calm.
  • Saying “I don’t know what you mean” is a demonstration of confidence and competence.

CADRE – The Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education – is funded by the Office of Special Education Programs at the US Department of Education to serve as the National Center on Dispute Resolution in Special Education.

CADRE works to increase the nation’s capacity to effectively resolve special education disputes, reducing the use of expensive adversarial processes. The Center encourages the use of mediation and other collaborative strategies to resolve disagreements about special education and early intervention programs.

You may download these Tested Tips for IEP Meetings from the CADRE website.

  1. I have ARD meeting for my daughter, I feel like the sped counselor, principal and district sped coordinator are working against our best interest. The dean of academics has been helpful and made suggestions that I did not know were options for me and I asked to have him present at my ARD. The sped coordinators response to me a day before my meeting was only one school administrator is required and that will be the principal and therefore the person I requested will not be able to attend. The person I requested told me he would be available and come
    I feel like they are blocking him. Do I have the right to request a specific and relevant school personnel at my ARD or can they just dictate who will be attending? Thank you. What can I Do? My ARD is tomorrow.

    • You certainly can, but since he works for the school they can block him from coming. You can ask him to submit written comments. At the end of the meeting if you disagree with any of the recommendations or decisions, tell them, & they are to offer to reconvene the meeting in about 10 days. You can then try to involve this person more. I work for the TX parent training & information center. I & our staff can assist you. Also go to & read about asking questions of the team. The dean may be able to help you ask the appropriate questions.

  2. I remember years ago going to an IEP meeting and having one of the people there actually call a student retarded and other unpositive things. Luckily for them I was there and stuck up for him. I just couldn’t imagine what would make someone do that when the child is there to gain some positives and also a room full of adults behaving like 2 year olds and not one other person said anything about the rude behavior of not only the teacher,principal or psych. How small that child felt that day and I was the one that defended him. Years later the IEP’s have been better to be seated in because teachers and parent’s alike are working toward a goal and getting to help the student. The main thing is stating concerns and getting information one needs because you really need to speak up and also as a teacher clarify anything that needs to be said.

  3. What are recommendations you can give me for helping my daughter who was recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease? I don’t want to be a hard nosed B, but at the same time I don’t want our daughter into things she should be staying away from? Thanks much

  4. To Rosemarie: As a special educator, I am not aware of any requirement regarding taking minutes. The paperwork completed during the meeting ought to serve as documentation as to the decision of the committee. Teachers and administrators often throw around terms in meetings and they forget that everyone else does not know what they are talking about. Parents can be hesitant to ‘speak up.’ If what the committee members are saying does not make sense, ask for clarification. To be sure that you are aware of all committee decisions, ask for a copy of of whatever form is completed at the meeting. Make sure that the paperwork reflects what has been discussed. I hope it goes well for you.

  5. Mine is more of a question – The school district my son is in, doesn’t feel a need to take minutes of the meeting. I’m bring a recorder, because of this. But when I asked about a copy of their minutes, “They don’t do that”. At what point are minutes not done at any meeting???? The school system is in Arizona.

  6. The Guideance counselor was very unprofessional at my IEP meeting,( Do I have to have her at my next meeting)? The Principal and the Asst. Principal ask me to except their apology for her behavior. I do not want this guideance counselor at my meetings, and I did except their apology.

  7. Sounds like my dream IEP meeting. If only I were treated like a human being by the school. i have never been rude, adversarial, etc., am always professional. They can’t stand that I have the audacity to know the law, and have caught them breaking it and called them on the carpet about it (leaving IEP meetings early, 2 of which I called to go over evaluations). They have their lawyer come to every one of my meetings. The new superintendent, who ws a corp. lawyer, told me that the school lawyer has the right to be at the meetings. I had 5 IEP meetings last year, and still no signed IEP. Just received paperwork in the mail yesterday that they are taking me to hearing to request that the BSEA (MA) forcably implement their proposed IEP. My son has lost skills during the school year (his 3 year evals done in Jan ’12),

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