Secrets of a Successful IEP Meeting
In the last post, we looked at what can be done before the IEP to minimize your anxiety and make it a more productive experience for everyone. Additionally, there are a number of things that you can do in the IEP meeting itself to insure that it benefits both you and your child.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Every profession has its own vocabulary that everyone working in it readily understands but may be just so much mumbo-jumbo to outsiders. Teaching is no exception. So you don’t get distracted by trying to figure out what LRE and VR mean, feel free to ask at the start of the meeting that any jargon or acronyms be explained whenever they are used and then don’t be reluctant to ask again if they aren’t.
Remember those items that must be covered by law:
How is your child currently doing in school?
Known as “present level of educational performance,” this is usually indicated by classroom tests and assignments, standardized tests, and your observations as well as those of the other members of the IEP team. This also includes how your child’s visual impairment (or other disabilities) affects their performance.
What are the goals for your child for the next year?
There should be a reasonable expectation that the goals could be met within the year and that progress toward the goal can be measured. When you think of “measurement,” the measurement should be something that is pretty black or white. This is the reason that tests and grades are often used (after all, you either get a B or above in a class or a 75 average in math or you don’t), although there certainly can be other measures of progress.
What special services will be provided?
This is especially important since this is your school’s contract with you and your child. If special services are to be provided, it needs to be in writing. Like any contract, it is important that any understandings be written clearly. If there’s any difference of opinion as to whether and how services are being provided in the next year, what is in the IEP is what counts. Some questions to consider include what services will be provided? When do they begin? How often will they occur? Who will provide them? Where will they be provided? How long will they last?
To what extent will your child participate with nondisabled classmates in courses and other activities?
What modifications, if any, will be given your child in taking standardized achievement tests?
How will you know how your child is doing?
Think here of how progress will be measured, how you will be notified, how frequently you will be notified, and by whom
The IEP is to be a collaborative process. You are a member of the IEP team. You know your child in ways that the rest of the team doesn’t and this can be valuable information. Alternatively, the other members of the team likely have expertise and perspectives you don’t.
Don’t depend on the school to suggest technology and resources your child may need. This is extremely important. By law, if the school mentions a technology or resource in the IEP, it is obligated to purchase it. Schools have very limited resources and will only suggest something when it is absolutely necessary. You, however, can push for screen-reading software, additional mobility training, or whatever you think your child needs. Be prepared to make your case to the other members of the team. It will help if you try to do the following:
• Be as specific as you can about your request. “Little Bubba would be helped by having a screen reader” is not as persuasive as “Having JAWS 16 by Freedom Scientific would really help Bubba do his online research now that he is in high school.”
• Be sensitive to the cost of what you are asking for. While you want the best for your child, they may not need the latest and greatest for what they are doing. But, if they do, don’t hesitate to push for it and be prepared to explain why.
• Distinguish between what you want for your child and what he or she really needs. There’s only so much the school has to spend, and you don’t want to get the reputation of having a shopping list of the latest technology at every IEP meeting.
• Think of the potential long-range benefit. Is this something that will only be of use for a short time or something that will prepare your child for employment, living on their own, college, etc.?
Focus on where you want your child to be and not so much on how they are going to get there.
To the extent that you can, you want to avoid second-guessing every decision of the school. Just as you have a unique contribution to make to the process, so too do the educational professionals.
Be sure you know how, and how often, you will be notified of your child’s progress in meeting the goals established in the IEP.
If your child is in high school, an additional feature will be added to the IEP meeting – transition planning. This is important enough that we’ll devote a separate post just to insuring that you and your child can get the most out of the experience.
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You may also enjoy:
Secrets for Planning for a Successful IEP
Secrets of Successful Transition Planning
Secrets to Following Up on the IEP
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