I have written a few posts about the IEP Meeting process and preparation. Today’s post will cover what to expect when you actually show up. Of course, there will be variations of procedures, expectations and experiences, so these are just generalities.
- Expect that there will be a “meeting before the meeting.” The key players in your child’s education will have met before the meeting to discuss what they think you as the parents will ask for (especially if you have informed them of such), and what they plan to do. They will have mostly predetermined what will happen at the meeting. This is especially true if you are asking for a Cadillac when you are only entitled to a Chevy.
- Expect that you will be outnumbered. When you received the invitation, you saw all of the names of the people invited to the party. It is rare to have pediatricians, outside or non-school psychologists, outside speech and language pathologists (SLP) actually attend a meeting. They often just submit a written report instead. If you can, bring your spouse and a family friend who knows the law and the IEP process (educationchampion.com can fill that role)
- Expect that the team will be running short on time. Usually, the annual reviews are scheduled during a teacher’s prep time, before or after school or all in one day back to back so the teacher only needs a substitute for that one day. Usually 40-60 minutes are scheduled (depending on the case) for each IEP. Therefore, do not expect to spend too much time chit-chatting with the group. There may be time at the end while someone is making copies for you to catch up with the teacher or your friends in the group, but be respectful of everyone’s time by bearing the time constraints in mind.
- Expect the IEP to be readable and understandable by a stranger. Make sure of this. There should not be any confusing acronyms or school-specific programs or interventions included without a clear explanation. In the event that you switch schools or districts, the IEP is still valid, so therefore should be clear to any educator what the expectations are of the student and school.
- Expect to be challenged in keeping your emotions under control our out of the conversations. Your emotions, previous hurts and disappointments should be checked at the door. Be careful in your wording and even careful not to over-share information that is not relevant to the discussion and task at hand. The way you feel does not hold any validity when held up against fact and the law.
- Expect to have a lot of questions. Ask for clarifications when they start talking about specific tests, results, acronyms, programs, etc. with which you are unfamiliar. If you don’t hold a degree in special education, it will all seem foreign and perhaps make you feel unintelligent. This is simply not the truth! Your role is a vital one and is not dependent on your understanding and or experience of the process.
- Expect to be an equal contributing member to the construction of the IEP. This is the law. Your opinion/information/input is equally valued as the professionals in the room. Count yourself as the expert on your child. Schools, teachers, classrooms are all impermanent. You are the most permanent person/force in your child’s life. You may move, a teacher may quit, or any other unforeseeable event may happen to change the nature of your child’s school day, but God willing, the parents will always be there.
- Expect to follow up with the school. Write a letter to the members of your IEP team thanking them for their time and effort for your child’s IEP. State the few things you are excited to see changed and ask how those things are going. This can be in an email so it is easier to get a response, but do print out both your thank-you and each team member’s thank-you note and include it in your child’s binder.
These are just a few things to think about before the IEP annual review. Get in touch if you have specific questions. Remember, you can meet virtually with an EC consultant to plan for your IEP, ask questions, decompress after the meeting or for any other reason. Meeting virtually face to face is a viable option for anyone who does not live in the Bloomington-Normal community, or who just doesn’t want to make the time for one more meeting. Do not feel like you have to make this journey on your own! Even an hour spent with Kim can help alleviate fears, empower you with the right questions and help to simplify and clarify your desires for your student. Don’t delay in making an appointment.
Call Kim at 309.824.5738