Ever wonder what are IEP meetings? Or what an IEP is? There is a lot of special education lingo that gets thrown around in education and it can be hard for parents to understand. This blog is aimed to help with understanding some of that verbiage. You also can read more about writing IEPs more effectively in this blog post.
What is an IEP and an IEP Meeting?
An individualized education plan (IEP) is a legal document developed for a child in public education who needs special education supports and services. It is created with the help of the child’s parents and school professionals (also known as the IEP team) who are knowledgeable of the child’s strengths and needs. It is individualized to every child. This means that no two IEPs should be alike because we all know no two students are alike.
An IEP describes how the student learns, how they can demonstrate their learning, and what kind of supports and services will be provided to them during the time of the IEP. It lasts for the entire school year and has to be reviewed every year to keep track of students’ progress. This is when an IEP meeting will be called and members of the team will need to provide information on the student’s progress and then also discuss next steps to move forward with the supports and services the child has in place.
Parents have Rights in IEP Meetings
Parents are the most important IEP team members as they know their child’s strengths, needs, motivators, and triggers. They are the best advocates for their children as they want their children to succeed. That’s why it’s so important for parents to feel as though they get a say in their child’s IEP because they do! Parents also need to know that they should be involved in the process of developing the IEP, which can be done in the IEP meeting. In the meeting, the IEP is still a draft or work in progress and it’s up to the team to agree to implement that draft together.
The IEP meeting is required by law at least once a year to plan an individualized educational program for the needs of special needs children. This meeting is attended by the child’s IEP team which is usually the following individuals, but can vary from student to student:
- parent or guardian
- special education teacher (case manager)
- general education teacher
- related service providers (Speech, Occupational Therapy, etc.)
- principal or special education director (LEA)
- and more!
Tips to Answer: What Are IEP Meetings?
Below are some things that I have done to better prepare myself for my own child’s IEP meetings. It just gives you some things to think about that can help you know what the expect. It also helps you to know what you as a parent can do.
Gather and organize all paperwork you have from that school year in regards to your child’s progress. Make sure you have a copy of the child’s IEP, their progress reports, ask for work samples from teachers. Look at the progress reports to see if your child is making progress and areas where they are struggling. As you look over this information think about what supports and services are helpful.
It will be beneficial if you want to take either a friend, family member, or a professional who works with your child to the meeting. Inform the school you will be bringing a support person to the meeting. This can be someone that knows your child well or an educational advocate.
Plan Ahead of the Meeting
Create a list of your questions and concerns after you review your child’s progress reports. If something is not working offer suggestions as you know your child the best. Speak up, ask questions and address any concerns you have about your child’s needs and areas of need. Having a list of topics or questions created beforehand is also helpful. Sometimes meetings can easily get off-topic or go in a different direction when there are multiple team members.
As a parent, you need to be aware of your children’s goals and let the team know your expectations for your child. Ask a question on what kind of instructional approaches will be used to help your child achieve those goals. Make sure the goals are functional which will help the child with autism to be as independent as they can. Also, if your child is of transition-age make sure a transition plan is in place. Also that the proper agency information is given to you of local supports in your community.
The Value of the Parent at the Meeting
Share your expertise with the team as you are an expert on your child. Be sure to talk about their strengths, needs, interests, and triggers. Offer suggestions on how best your child learns. If possible take a video for the team to see as the school environment is different from the home environment. These are things your child might struggle with at school but will be able to do well at home. You should provide the team with information about the child from the parent’s perspective. The home environment information can be super helpful to teachers and providers. Filling out a form like this can also be a great way to get that information to them!
Advocate for yourself and your child. If there are certain terms in the IEP you do not understand ask for clarification. It is also a good idea to ask to have the documentation and plans to review, take home, and decide if you want to sign the documents. If a school district is doing things correctly in most states it is required that the draft goes home prior to the meeting for the family to review. Many schools will try to get the parents to sign right take the documents home, review them ask any questions or concerns before signing them.
Take Your Time in the Meeting
Take the time to follow up after the meeting with any members of the team that you may have had questions for. I also suggest asking the team to document how the meeting went and what was discussed. This could also be done during the meeting by asking a team member to act as the secretary and take note of the discussions. Always make sure you follow up after the meeting everything which was discussed in the meeting is documented. Make sure all the things discussed in the meeting are documented. This could even be added to a section of the IEP when it is finalized.
A parent can request an IEP meeting at any time. A team member can request because the student achieved some goals. Or they may not be making progress and need a goal revised. They also may need different goals altogether and the team gets to decide this. You also may want the IEP team to offer a different instructional approach or services. No matter the reason, this blog hopefully helped you when you have asked yourself, “What are IEP meetings?”
Vidya Banerjee is a parent to a teenage son with autism. She has a blog where she shares a lot of helpful information for parents about the journey she has gone through as a parent of a child with special needs. She also has a podcast called Autism Family Story where she shares information to help families with tips and strategies. Her mission is to help as many special needs parents as possible.