Part one of the IEP meeting series covered the school’s responsibilities before the meeting. In this post, I will address what your things parents should do before the meeting.
Most IEP meetings are scheduled in early spring around April or March, so now is a great time to start thinking about your plan for the IEP meeting before you actually receive the invitation for the meeting in the mail.
First, gather all of your student’s past IEP’s. If you don’t have them all, at least having the current one at hand is a start. Read through it. Write questions on sticky notes on each page so you don’t forget them.
Next, take time to think, reflect and pray. This is the most important step and one we often skip or hurry through. Block off time in your calendar, hire a babysitter for siblings, go out to a special supper together; whatever it takes to get this done. Write a list of your child’s strengths: academic, positive character qualities, physical, talents, etc. Reflect on the blessing your child is to your family and the positive ways in which s/he has impacted you. If you believe in prayer, thank God for those things and ask Him to direct your next steps. I find it is helpful to do this alone, then with your spouse/other parent, and finally with your child. By coming from a place of strength, talents and blessings, you can better determine what goals you have for your child. If your child is old enough, have him or her make the same list. If you hire Education Champion for a file review, a short survey is conducted to direct this part of the process.
After this, write a list of what challenges your child faces. Again, have your spouse and child do the same. See which of those are the same and focus on those. 3-5 things you would like to see your child accomplish is sufficient. These may be goals the school shares, or they may be goals you end up working on at home. Specific academic goals will usually be determined by the school, but this does not mean that you do not have input on such goals. Thinking through these things provides focus, now you will need to come up with a plan to accomplish those things.
Much of this will be done at the school level, but those goals you need to work on at home will be your responsibility. Some may overlap, such as homework accomplishment goals. Write out the ways in which you will work together as a family and with the school to see those goals met. Using the homework as an example, you may decide to hire Education Champion to come in and put everyone through a homework boot camp.
You will then take the academic/school parts of your family’s goals with you to the IEP meeting. There will be a part of the meeting, usually close to the beginning where parents are asked for input and their thoughts are recorded on the computer, so it is always best to be prepared. You may say something like “We would like to see Stanley improve his reading goals, learn to control his aggressive behaviors when frustrated, and participate more in PE class.” This will be typed into the computer and all parts will be addressed throughout the meeting. Any questions you have can be addressed at that time as well, or you can wait until the part of the meeting that discusses your particular question.
One thing to keep in mind when thinking through what you want for your child and what the school can and will provide is that there are often differences between the two. The Free and Appropriate Public Education part of the law does not use the word best as we parents would like it to. We want the best for our student, but realizing that is not what the school is required to provide can help save some head and heartache in the future. The schools usually want what’s best also, but can interpret that differently and there are always constraints (budget mostly) that are out of their control that may make what you want for your child different than what they can provide.
Look for the next post about what you can expect at the IEP meeting.
Working through this process of preparation for an IEP meeting is one for which Education Champion can provide support. I can also attend the meeting to speak with and for you and your student. My expertise and experience of sitting on both sides of the IEP table can help alleviate the emotional stress of the process, especially in those instances in which the school and family do not see eye to eye. Remember to book your services soon! Email Kim at: Kimhillard@educationchampion.com or call 309-824-5738. I am looking forward to working with your family to help your child achieve academic, behavioral and emotional success.