Inside: Do you have an IEP Meeting, 504 Meeting or a Domain Meeting coming up with your child’s school? Here’s what you need to know to have a successful IEP meeting!
I sat across the table from 8 strangers. And I was crying.
This was my daughter we were talking about. This conversation about her would determine her success or failure at school.
Would they get her? Would they see her? Would they figure out a way to make her shine?
A sweet little preschooler who just so happens to not be able to see a nickel on a grey table and can’t find the bathroom on her own.
Would these strangers…these educators, help her? Help her fall in love with school rather than dread it?
The Mama Bear in me was ready to protect her. Ready to fight for whatever she needed. Ready to attack. And then five seconds later, this Mama Bear was crying again.
IEP Meetings can be so overwhelming.
How to Have a Successful IEP Meeting with Your Child’s School
An Individual Education Plan Meeting can be an exciting time for a parent with a child who has special needs.
It’s the day we discover what support our child will receive in school: their services, aids, and accommodations.
If we’re lucky, our IEP team will be an amazing source of comfort. They will have an unlimited supply of knowledge and an unparalleled level of expertise. The IEP team will want what’s best for our child and they will do everything in their power to help our child succeed.
But some parents aren’t so lucky.
You may be in the unfortunate, and sadly quite common, position of feeling as if you’re in this alone. As if your IEP team doesn’t see your whole child. Can’t envision their potential. Won’t do what needs to be done to bring out their best. It can be lonely, frustrating and infuriating.
Even in the best of circumstances, an IEP meeting can be a very scary time, filled with uncertainty and dread. Fears of the unknown and fears of the known.
It is a time when all of your child’s limits and obstacles will be written down. It’s official. No hiding it or going back.
It’s that moment when your child will be given a label if they don’t already have one.
You’ll be given a label too: Parent of a Special Needs Child.
But there are tips Special Needs Parents need to know to increase our chances of having a successful IEP meeting.
To get you ready for your IEP Meeting, here are 9 tips you need to know before you go and a FREE Checklist to print out! Print it out down below.
1.Ask for your copy of the Parent Rights before the meeting and then actually read them thoroughly before you go.
You’ll find little gems hidden among the legal mumbo-jumbo.
Here’s one: you don’t have to sign the IEP unless you agree with it. You can take the IEP home to review it before you sign it.
Here’s one more: You have the right to make an audio recording of the meeting if you give the school 24 hours notice.
2.Assume the IEP team wants what’s best for your child.
It might be easy to assume that this is a ‘you vs. them’ game. But remember that this is their chosen profession. Most of them are here because they love education and they love working with children. They are on the side of your child, even when they disagree with you.
3.Bring your child’s photo to the meeting.
Sometimes after a day of back to back meetings, educators need a gentle reminder that they do in fact still love children.
The photo will make the meeting more personal and it will remind everyone that the diagnoses, assessments, and percentages being discussed are attached to a real child with real feelings…whose mama is sitting right there listening to every word.
4.Bring some cookies to the meeting.
Everyone’s sweeter when there are cookies on the table. Besides, IEP meetings can take hours. Sometimes everyone just needs a sugar pick me up.
5.Know that you are a valuable part of this IEP team.
You have a say in what happens. The rest of the team might be experts in special education but you are an expert in your child. Your voice matters. Trust your Mama Bear instincts.
6.Be reasonable, positive, and polite.
Be willing to compromise when you feel comfortable doing so and be open to suggestions. If you’re scared, angry or frustrated, take a deep breath and say what you need to say calmly. You’ll more likely be heard.
7. Bring a trusted friend or specialist to the IEP meeting for professional and/or emotional support.
You can also hire an advocate to attend. You don’t have to do this alone.
8. Bring a list of your questions and concerns, then discuss each one.
Take notes during the meeting. If you write down what is said, you will understand the IEP when you get your copy.
It’s okay to ask questions during any part of the meeting. If you don’t understand something, the time to ask is now.
The acronym list in SpEd, like your child’s LRE and their right to FAPE, is endless and can be confusing. It’s a different language. You have the right to understand it. (See #9)
9. Know that the school is legally obligated to provide your child with a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE) in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).
If your child doesn’t qualify for Special Education (SpEd), they may be eligible to get support under a 504 Plan. Help is available and if your child qualifies for it, they will get it.
In your child’s IEP Meeting, you may engage with the most amazing staff who clearly love working with your child. Or you might face an unprofessional group who really have no business working with your child. Or you might have an IEP Team somewhere in between.
Regardless, the best chance your child has to get the services they need is you: A parent who knows their rights, understands the process, and feels confident to walk into the room ready to be part of the IEP Team.
So Mama Bear, you can do this. You’ve got this.
Your baby is in good hands: yours.
The IEP team has (hopefully) got your back.
And it’s going to be a great year to master some IEP goals 80% of the time in 3 out of 4 situations.