Preparing for the IEP: Parents Pt. 2

You can never be too prepared for an IEP meeting. The teachers, administrators, experts and case managers have all taken time to prepare for the meeting. It is your responsibility to do at least as much, if not more preparation for the meeting.

After you have prepared your master file, took time to think through the goals you want to see your student accomplish and determined what academic challenges you want him or her to meet, you need to prepare those goals. If you take time to type them out and submit them to your IEP team in advance, there is a higher likelihood that you will see those items addressed at the meeting.

When you plan with Education Champion, as a team, we will think and talk through specific areas and help you get them into writing in the form of a parent agenda. Then, you can get that to your case manager about 1 week before the meeting. As I said, having it all in writing is exponentially helpful to ensure that you are all working toward the goals that you have identified as the most important.

Remember, you as the parents have the most permanency in your student’s life. You may move, switch school districts, switch school buildings, teachers may change, etc. You are the only ones looking at the long term picture for your child. An IEP addresses the here and now and the following year, but should be written as though a stranger could pick it up, read it and implement it. You have the unique ability to think through what you’d like to see your child accomplish as an adult.

In fact, the law places loads of emphasis on this permanent relationship, naming you as equal members on the IEP team. Equal Members. Remember that when you walk through those school doors. You may not have an educational degree, experience teaching or administrating in a school, but you are there with the unique holistic knowledge of your child’s strengths, weaknesses, insecurities, challenges and abilities. Your input is invaluable to the IEP team and when you attend knowing that you are a specialist with that confidence, you will be more willing to ask questions, speak up and advocate for your student.

Another thing to consider is to not give more information than is necessary. If you are a talker, like me, be sure to think through what you say in response to questions as well as what information you volunteer. There are many details of your home life that have no bearing on your student’s IEP but might give teachers and administrators a reason not to do their best. For example, you and your spouse are breaking up. You might think this is important information for the school to have to understand your child’s emotional state. However, it may just give them an excuse for your student not performing their best instead of working hard to motivate and empower your student to do their best. ?

Hiring EC to help you plan for the meeting will allow you to go in to the meeting armed with a plan and information about your student. Facilitating the meeting in this way will nearly guarantee you the best meeting ever and will usually get you most of what you want for your child.

As Benjamin Franklin said, Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. If you think you just need to show up, give a little statement and let the “experts” decide your child’s fate at school will not ensure the best outcome for your student. To reiterate, you are the only specialist on your whole child who will be in attendance. Prepare the way they are. Take time to get documents in order, think through and write out your parent agenda and submit it to the team beforehand. Show up early. This way, you may be able to see who attended the “meeting before the meeting” as often takes place. Some people may give their information about your student to the pre-meeting and not attend the actual IEP. Being informed on who they are may help you ask more questions.

Even if you have had bad IEP meeting experiences in the past, do not start off on the defensive or offensive. Remember that you all are on the same team. The goal is to get everyone to run the same plays instead of their own plays. Having a positive attitude, staying calm and disallowing emotions from hindering your thought process, and being kind without placing blame, accusing or offending will be part of your playbook.

In the next blog, we’ll talk about what to expect at the actual IEP meeting.