What To Do When the IEP Meeting Is Too Short

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When is an IEP meeting too short? Can an IEP team review and revise a child’s IEP in 25-30 minutes?
Is your school district imposing short, rigid time limits to review and revise IEPs? Here is what we are hearing . . .

“The team said our meeting was from 7:45 until 8:10. They are ‘cracking down’ on times for IEP meetings because teachers need be in class.”

“I had to pick one 30-minute slot for a meeting to develop next year’s IEP. If the team needs more time, I have to schedule another meeting which is unlikely to happen before the school year ends.”

What do you think? Can an IEP team review and revise an IEP in 25-30 minutes?

We agree – people waste a great deal of time in meetings. IEP meetings are no exception. The solution to this problem is ensuring that IEP team leaders are trained to organize and manage efficient meetings that produce educationally useful, legally correct IEPs.

When administrators place arbitrary time limits on IEP meetings, they create a no-win situation. The IEP team will be forced to ignore the legal requirements for reviewing and revising IEPs. (For the legal requirements for reviewing and revising IEPs, please see Chapter 11 in Wrightslaw: All About IEPs (ISBN: 978-1-892320-20-9, 192 pages).

The IEP team won’t have time to receive input from some school members who are required to attend or to address the parent member’s concerns. These team members will feel disappointed and resentful and will view future meetings as a waste of time. Who can blame them?

What can you do if you are offered a meeting time that is simply too short?

Your To-Do List

If you are dealing with arbitrary time limits on IEP meetings, we suggest you do two things:

* document the problem by sharing your experiences, and

* provide facts that support your concerns.

1. Document the Problem

Write a short letter, note, or email to the school principal, with copies to the district special ed director and superintendent. The letter should document your experiences and your concerns about the negative impact of one-size-fits-all (“all children with disabilities are the same”) time limits.

Tip: People don’t have time to read long letters so your letter needs to be short and sweet.

In your letter or email, introduce yourself (briefly) as the parent of a child who receives special education services through an IEP at XYZ School. Briefly describe what you were told about time limits on IEP meetings.

Tip: You are writing to a person who has the power to resolve the problem. Use words like “you,” “we,” and “our” to make your letter and the problem more personal.

“I am confused. I’m hoping you can help.” An IEP team is required to discuss and make decisions about many issues, including the child’s present levels, needs, measurable goals, services, progress, accommodations, and placement. An IEP team cannot review the data and revise an IEP in 25-30 minutes.

“I assume you [principal / sped director / superintendent] don’t know that staff is placing arbitrary time limits on IEP meetings.”

“I appreciate your response to my concerns. [Be sure to include your contact info.] If you have questions about these concerns, please contact me at work (888-555-9876) or at home (888-555-1234) after 6 p.m. I appreciate your help and quick response.”

2. Include Information that Supports Your Concerns

Download and print two tools designed to help parents and teachers develop educationally useful, legally correct IEPs. Attach or include these documents with your letter or email.

IEP Pop-Up Tool – Developing a Child’s IEP (12 questions and answers) – When you click questions in the Pop-Up Tool, you get the legally correct answers (what IDEA requires), the law and/or regulation that supports the answers, and a list of resources.

IEP Checklist – Is the IEP Individualized? When you answer the questions in the IEP Checklist, you will know if your child’s IEP is individualized, as the law requires. IEP Checklist (PDF)

If you struggle to get appropriate services for your child or you struggle to provide appropriate services for your students, we hope this plan will help.

  1. I have experienced both ends of the spectrum as it pertains to time allotted for IEP meetings. I’m currently in a school where meeting times are limited to teacher planning which occurs in 45-minute blocks. Of course this means that sometimes multiple meetings are required in order to get through all of the items to be accomplished. I have found that advanced preparation is imperative to helping move things along. As a resource specialist, I am charged with facilitating these meetings. Prior to going into an IEP meeting, I have already conversed with my case managers and reviewed the draft IEP to be discussed during the meeting. I make sure that we have draft proposals entered for every section and send home the drafts for parents to review prior to the meeting. During the meeting, I display the draft IEP and we are able to move through each section as everyone has already had the opportunity to preview it. We engage in more in-depth conversation when there are areas that everyone may not be on the same page and make appropriate revisions.

    • Hello Jennifer – you are quite right – advance planning is essential for meetings to accomplish their purpose. When you send the draft IEP proposals to the parent ahead of time, you get them involved early too. In our experience, this is rare. Maybe you should write a book about how to facilitate IEP meetings.

      • Jennifer, WOW! This is so awesome! You reduce the stress for staff, & the family. I agree about writing a book or an article on this.

  2. The author makes some great points about what to do when you feel like an IEP meeting is too short. I definitely agree that it is important to be prepared for these meetings, and to know what you want to accomplish. I also think it is important to be assertive and make sure that your voice is heard. Sometimes, it can be helpful to have someone else present at the meeting to help advocate for your child.

  3. Hello! I am a graduate student earning my Masters degree in Special Education. I would love to talk to parents of children with special needs to learn more about their opinions of IEP meetings. If you would love to talk, please respond to this comment!

  4. You never have to sign anything. If you have the IEP then read it over, make any changes on it that you want and cross out anything you don’t want. Send it back and request an IEP meeting right away. I always sent everything certified mail. That got their attention. You may bring anyone you want to the meeting just tell them and you may record the meeting with a digital recorder and again tell them. I did it all the time so I could remember and not have to take notes and it made the meeting go better because they knew they were recorded. You have every right to insure that your child gets proper services.

  5. My son school send me an interim IEP’s that they wrote I was not consulted nor gave my permission for them to write anything & they have the nerve to sent me consent form to sign stating school didn’t restrict me from bringing people how can I bring people if I didn’t know what was going on . What can I do about that please help I’m new to this .

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