When you hear the words IEP Meeting how do you feel?
For many, the butterflies kick in, their palms become sweaty, and the brain goes into overdrive. IEP meetings can be quite stressful, especially if there is some disagreement among parents and the rest of the IEP team. Today I'm here to give you a few tips on how to organize your thoughts and hopefully feel less frazzled when you walk into the meeting.
Given the heightened stress one experiences at an IEP meeting, I'd like to encourage you to prepare two documents to bring to your meeting: an agenda and parent concerns.
You might be thinking, "An agenda? Really?"
Absolutely. This is not an agenda for how the meeting will flow, as that is the job of the administrator leading the IEP meeting. This agenda is to ensure you are able to cover any information you deem necessary for your child to receive FAPE (Free Public Education). In the past, we had used this opportunity to highlight the correlation between the challenges our son was having and his diagnosis of Tourette Syndrome. It reminded me to pass out copies of handouts from the Tourette Association of America to help the team understand the challenges our son experienced.
The agenda helped me remember to bring up concerns we had about situations that had arisen since we had last met and to push for accommodations we felt would help our son succeed at school. Consider it a guide. You don't want to leave the meeting thinking, "Darn it! I forgot to bring up (blank)."
The second document should list your concerns. During an IEP meeting, typically near the beginning after the team has gone over your child's strengths, interests, and preferences, the administrator will ask you to share your concerns. By preparing this document prior to the meeting, you will be able to clearly articulate your concerns. This should ease some of the discomfort you may feel during this portion of the meeting.
After you have shared your concerns with the team, provide a copy of your document to the administrator and request it be included in the IEP paperwork for that meeting.
If you have not already created an IEP binder for your child, now is the time to do so. Keep all related paperwork in this binder: meeting notices, evaluations, the IEP, agenda, parent concerns, etc. Put it in chronological order and place the most current reports and meeting notes in the front. You will be so thankful to have everything in one place, as special education comes with a lot of paperwork!