11 Tips to Prepare for Your Special Needs Child’s IEP Meeting

sara-list-300trAs a dad of autistic twins, I have been involved in many IEP meetings beginning when the twins (now 12 1/2) were three years old.  (IEP means Individualized Education Program.)

I like to think of the IEP as a road map of education for special needs children. I recommend you do the same. Remember, the IEP covers an entire year of your child’s education, so that makes the confusion, preparation time and (potential) stress more bearable.

You may be a mom of a special needs child new to the IEP process. You may not be looking forward to participating in your child’s IEP meeting at the school. These meetings can be stressful. After all, it’s your child’s ability to get as much from his education as possible that is being discussed and decided.

8 Things to Do Before Your Child’s IEP Meeting

1. Come prepared. Dr. Craig Polhman of SouthEast Psych recommends that you do as much advance work as possible. He says, in part:  Bring previous evaluation results, grades, other recommendation sources, testing results, documentation of medical diagnosis, and questions to ask.  Being prepared will ensure a smooth and less stressful meeting.

2. Review your school’s specific IEP guidelines. Find out if your school district has published guidelines on the Internet (or recommendations) for parents of special needs students. Review this document ahead of the IEP meeting. For example, the Los Angeles School District posted this helpful guide on their website.

3. Request a draft of the IEP in advance. Approximately two weeks before your meeting, ask for a draft copy of the IEP – you want enough time to review it. Consider consulting with an advocate to develop specific, measurable goals that you believe would be appropriate for your child.

4. Make a list of paperwork to bring to the meeting. Resources for Children with Special Needs website is specific about how you should prepare.  Here is the list they recommend: current and past IEPs, doctor’s reports, progress reports, independent evaluations, evaluations from outside therapists, etc.

5. Double check that you have it all in order the day of the meeting. (See their Get Organized! Tip Sheet) Download it for free. Click here

6. Make a list of everything you want to discuss during the meeting. This tip is from a mom who is also a special needs teacher who blogs at Brave Kids.org.

7. Prioritize your requests. This way you’ll know in advance what steps or practices are most important for your child. You can decide during the meeting which to negotiate the hardest for.

8. Be the expert on your child. The school staff may not have had prior experience with your child’s special need. Clearly explain to the staff and teachers how your child’s special needs are best understood and handled.  Source: ParentingADHD

3 Suggestions to Manage Stress During IEP Meetings

1) Use “we” to promote collaboration. Here’s an example of how to address the professionals during your IEP meeting: “We all see that Derek has been struggling in Math. What are some other ways we can support him?” Thanks to Resources for Children with Special Needs website for this tip.

2) Use each person’s name during the meeting. Refer to your child by name. Know the names of the team members from the school. Refer to them by their name to show you are paying attention and to make the meeting more personal. This is from http://www.understandingspecialeducation.com/iep-collaboration.html

3) Keep your cool. If you begin to feel overwhelmed or emotional, ask for a 5-minute break. Another helpful tip from this website

I hope that this post is helpful for you if you’re a parent who is working regularly with IEPs and could use some additional ideas. If your son is newly diagnosed or just starting school, these tips can help you to gear up for your new role as your child’s strongest advocate. We wish you all the best on this journey.

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