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How to Prepare for IEP Meetings, Provide Information and Share Concerns by Pat Howey, Advocate

Question: How do I prepare for my child's IEP meeting? Should I share everything with the IEP team? When should I give information to the school?

meeting of four women sitting at a table with one woman standing and a blackboard behind them

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.

How will the team respond? Some members will be upset to learn that you had important information but did not share it with them. They are likely to feel that you are trying to ambush them.

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.”

One person handed you a long report that included unfamiliar words and terms. The “Doctor” read this 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 more than a little angry.

You knew the meeting was important. Because no one provided you with the report before the meeting, you didn't have a chance to read it, study it, or formulate any questions. When you received the report during the meeting, you didn't 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 didn't 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 frustrated and angry with you? Do you think the team will do a great job developing your child's IEP if they are upset with you? Of course not.

Don't not spring surprises on your child's IEP team. This is not the time to "pay them back" for surprising you earlier. Don't not let the past actions of others affect your behavior in the present.

Bottom Line: Give your child's team all the information they need, in writing, several days before the meeting.
The team's response may be a pleasant surprise!


Parent Threats: Refusing to Sign the IEP - Pat has advice for a parent who refuses 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.

Meet Pat Howey, who writes the Ask the Advocate column for Wrightslaw.

Pat began her advocacy career as a volunteer for the Task Force on Education for the Handicapped (now InSource), Indiana’s Parent Training and Information Center. In 1990, she opened her advocacy practice and served families throughout Indiana by representing them at IEP meetings, mediation, and due process hearings. She has a B.A. in Paralegal Studies from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, where she graduated magna cum laude. She is an Indiana Registered Paralegal and an affiliate member of the Indiana Bar and the American Bar Associations.

Pat is a charter member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA and served on its Board of Directors from 2000 through 2003. She a graduate of Leadership Lafayette and Partners in Policymaking, and a speaker / trainer with the Wrightslaw Speakers Bureau. Pat has been on the faculty of the Institute of Special Education Advocacy at William & Mary Law since its inception in 2010.

In 2017, Pat closed her advocacy practice and began working as a special education paralegal for attorneys in Indiana, Texas, and California. In January 2019, Pat joined the Connell Michael Kerr law firm where her duties expanded to assisting with federal court cases.

Changing the World, One Child at a Time

Contact Information
Patricia L. Howey, B.A., IRP
POB 117
West Point, Indiana 47992-0117

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Revised: 07/27/20