Annual Individualized Education Program meetings can be stressful, but there are ways to help make them run smoothly.
Those of us who’ve been through it before are very aware how stressful and unpredictable IEP meetings can be. IEP stands for Individualized Education Program, which is the plan created for every child eligible for special-needs services from his or her public school specifying how the school will meet your child’s specific educational needs. IEP meetings are the yearly get together at which parents gather with a team of professionals from the school district to discuss our child’s needs for the upcoming school year and develop our child’s plan for the year. We parents know what our children need better then anyone, but unfortunately we are not always heard. Here are some of the things I do at my meeting to help ensure that it is a success.
Show a picture of your child. One of the first things I do is take out and hold up a picture of my son, and introduce him. Usually there are people at the meeting who have never met him. I would like them to all see the boy we are talking about, to put a face with his name and his needs.
Take good notes. Ask the professionals to slow down if you need them to. Let them know you don’t want to miss anything. I usually bring a notebook or legal pad to write on. Be sure to ask who everyone is and what their titles are, and before you leave the meeting ask for a copy of the minutes (that someone should have been taking). You can compare their minutes to your notes to make sure you are all on the same page.
Never sign anything–except the attendance sheet. This is definitely something to remember. If they ask you to sign something else, tell them you want to review it at home; you are allowed to say this. Before you leave the meeting, ask them to give you a copy of the attendance sheet as well.
Don’t let them rush you. If these meetings are still new to you, you may hear words and terms that are not completely familiar to you. Feel free to ask them to explain everything. That is their job. Remind them, if necessary, that this is your child who is being discussed, not an abstract idea. If time runs out and you feel like you need more time, you can ask for a reconvene, or an additional meeting, to continue the discussion.
Discuss placements. If you have already visited potential schools, let them know. Give them details as to what you saw and why it would not work for your child. Let them know that you have been proactive about the situation. Ask them to discuss their ideas about possible placements for your child. Remember, nothing is set in stone at this time but this is definitely something that should be discussed.
These are some of the things I always do at my son’s IEP meeting, I hope they may help guide you to a smoother, more successful IEP meeting of your own.