Navigating the Individualized Education Program (IEP) Process: What to do before, during, and after your child’s IEP meeting

IEP, Individual education program, academics

As of May 2017, there were 6.6 million children and adolescents between the ages of 3-21 receiving special education services in the public school setting through the use of an Individualized Education Program (IEP). While some may think this is an alarming statistic, some might view it as a strength that children and teens who need it have advocates in their corner making sure that they have the accommodations and tools necessary for accessing the public school curriculum in a way that works for them.

One of the most important advocates for a child or teen with special education needs is the parent/guardian. Unfortunately, the road to getting from point A (I feel that my child has some special learning needs) to point B (My child’s school has implemented a plan to support my child’s learning) can be overwhelming and confusing.

Below are some suggestions to assist with the IEP process as you collaborate with the IEP team to create appropriate goals, objectives and accommodations so that your child can access the academic curriculum with success now and in the future.

Before the IEP meeting:

  • You do not have to wait until the IEP is ready to expire to ask for a meeting. A parent can request a meeting at any time throughout the school year to review an existing IEP.
  • Read any ETR (Evaluation Team Report) results and write down any questions you may have. These reports tend to use terms that are not familiar with someone outside of the field of psychology and academic testing, so don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. These reports provide you with information about your child’s learning strengths and weaknesses, so the more you understand them, the better you can help your child!
  • Make sure you have completed and returned any forms or questionnaires sent to you by your child’s school to aid in setting meaningful goals on the IEP.
  • Ask for a draft of the IEP at least one day in advance of the meeting so that you have an opportunity to review it and note areas that need adjustments or clarification.
  • Keep an IEP binder that you can take to meetings with you. This binder should contain the following: previous and current IEP’s, testing evaluations and results, a correspondence log for keeping track of conversations with others on the IEP team, report cards, progress reports, and work samples (i.e. writing samples, math work, etc).

During the IEP Meeting:

  • Ask clarifying questions about dates listed, terminology used, testing result jargon, etc.
  • If this is an IEP review, ask if the current goals are being met for your child. If not, discuss barriers as well as possible ways that you can support what the school is doing in the home setting (i.e. review homework, help create organizers, read aloud to your child, help them study or learn new concepts with flash cards, etc.).
  • Understand the role of each person in the room and their interaction with your child during the school day (i.e. teacher, special education supervisor, speech therapist, occupational therapist).
  • Get contact information from pertinent team members for ongoing correspondence throughout the year, including whom to contact if you need to call an IEP meeting outside of the annual due date.
  • Ask the team what the interventions and accommodations will look like in the classroom setting (i.e. will some services be in a separate location outside of the classroom?).
  • If your child is age 14 or older, she will be asked to be a part of the meeting. This is a good opportunity to help her advocate for herself and to prepare questions she has about her IEP.
  • All parents receive a copy of the “A Guide to Parents Rights In Special Education” manual during IEP meetings. Be sure to read this document! It has all of the information you need regarding your rights and your child’s rights during the entire IEP process.

After the IEP Meeting:

  • Talk to your child about any changes made to the IEP that will impact him at school (i.e. receiving tutoring in a separate room, visual reminders at her desk, etc).
  • You have the right to bring the IEP home with you to review BEFORE signing off on a final document. This can be helpful if the IEP meeting had a lot of new information that you need to process with your child or spouse.
  • If you have concerns or questions about the implementation of your child’s IEP, make sure to contact the team leader. It is very important to keep lines of communication open with the team throughout the year, instead of waiting to talk about progress or issues at the annual review of the IEP.

Always remember that you are a part of the IEP team along with school personnel. The IEP team works together to make sure the IEP is implemented AND that it is effective in meeting the academic needs of your child. You know your child the best and school personnel are specially trained to select goals and objectives that will be the most helpful for your child. Together you can create and help implement a great IEP for your child!

If you have further questions about Individualized Education Programming (IEPs), you may find the following sites helpful:

Written by Heidi Kloss, Ph.D. for the Linden Blog. If you are interested in receiving Linden Blog updates with original articles about parenting, families, mental health, and wellness, subscribe using the field below. If you are interested in scheduling an appointment at Linden BP call 440/250-9880.