ABCs of the IEP

Individualized Educations Program (IEP) meetings are an important part of giving your child the best education to help them succeed. IEPs are personalized for each child and their families so that the school and staff can work at the child’s level to create a school program that addresses their needs. It can sometimes be difficult to allocate large amounts of time for these meetings, since teachers and other staff may need to find coverage for the duration of  the meeting, and parents have to take time from work or daily activities to participate–but it is an opportunity for parents and professionals to collaborate to improve the quality of education their child will receive.

The National Center for Learning Disabilities expand this idea to, “These individuals pool knowledge, experience, and commitment to design an educational program that will help the student be involved in, and progress in, the general curriculum. The IEP guides the delivery of special education supports and services for the student.” This makes it important to do some planning for the meeting ahead of time in order to make the most of it. Below are some tips for before, during, and after your child’s IEP.

Before:

  • Build positive relationships with the people who will be involved in your child’s IEP meeting, whether that is the teacher, school psychologist, etc.
  • Make a list of points that you think should be addressed at the meeting so that you don’t forget to mention them.
  • Do some of your own research on the format and goals of the IEP meeting so that you are prepared.
  • Send the people on the IEP team copies of assessments and materials containing information they will need about your child in order to personalize his/her program.
  • Review any data about your child that you may have i.e. last year’s IEP, evaluations, medicals, etc., so that you are familiar with the material as well.
During:
  • No one knows your child better than you, so make sure to talk about their strengths, interests, and needs
  • Remember that you may not always agree 100% with a particular method they want to use to develop a specific skill; however they are trained to design the best step-by-step ways to help your child based on the information you give.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask questions or for clarification on anything you don’t understand. You can also write down your questions if they are for a specific team member, to discuss one-on-one.
  • Make yourself at ease so that you can be your child’s best advocate–if that means bringing along a spouse, family member, or friend for support, make sure to let the school know ahead of time who you will have with you.
After:
  •  Take a copy of the IEP home with you to review, especially if you aren’t able to make decisions at the meeting.
  • Review the agreed upon IEP with a team member to make sure everything is clear. Remember that you can always change your mind and withdraw your permission from any part of the IEP that does not seem helpful or appropriate.
  • Communicate with your child, the best you can, about what he will be working on during the school year.
  • Continue to develop a collaborative relationship with the professionals who are constantly interacting with your child so that you can reinforce skills and any progress they make in the home as well.