When you attend IEP meetings you represent the best interests of your child. Here are a few suggestions for effectively advocating for your child.
Before an IEP meeting:
- Make a long term plan for your child’s future: a plan will help you stay focused, anticipate problems and prepare for the future. The plan for your child should be revisited and revised each year.
- Understand your child’s disability. Research how the disability affects their ability to learn and participate in the classroom.
- Gather information. Review your child’s current IEP and progress reports. Use test scores to monitor progress and review state and local assessments. Compare data from previous year(s) to determine if progress is being made.
- Write down your questions, concerns, and issues. Develop and follow an agenda to discuss the problems you see and propose possible solutions to these areas that demand attention.
- Request a draft of the IEP, to familiarize yourself with the goals, and compare them to the previous IEP.
During an IEP meeting:
- PARTICIPATE. You are a vital team member who is making decisions for (and sometimes, with) your child. Ask questions if you do not understand something. Discuss progress with service providers (Speech Therapists, Special Education Teachers, etc.) A parent’s input should carry equal weight in the discussions and decisions of an IEP meeting.
- If you feel that you could benefit from support, bring a friend, advocate, and/or a family member who knows your child.
- Keep your emotions under control, leave blame and criticism out of the conversation. Stick to factual information.
- Document events, conversations, and information in writing (Who? What? Why? When?). Keep copies of all records and correspondence.
- Protect the school-parent relationship, without your child loosing out. The ultimate goal is to develop mutually acceptable solutions, “win-win,” to problems rather than a “win-lose” perspective.
- Understand the school’s position: be able to step into their shoes and understand their perceptions, interest and concerns
After an IEP meeting:
- Write a follow-up note (email or handwritten, if handwritten, make a copy of it before you send it), thanking the team members. Also, outline agreed upon topics and solutions reached in the IEP meeting. Be sure to include the responsible party along with the action (ex, “Thank You, Mrs. Hall, for beginning the daily behavior modification sticker chart this Thursday. We appreciate all your efforts.”) This will help ensure that everyone will be on the same page and be accountable for their part.
- Continue to educate yourself about your child’s disability and the Federal Regulations and State Statutes that govern Special Education Law
- Make contact with others who are experiencing similar things as your family (support groups, organizations specializing in your child’s area of disability, etc.)
Learn more about your rights, responsibilities, and role in the IEP process at these helpful websites:
Keep in mind, the goal of everyone at the table, is to meet the needs of your child.