Special needs kids thrive with an education plan best suited to their needs. Here’s everything you need to know before meeting your child’s educator, according to a special needs mom.
Creating a partnership with your child’s school is important for your child’s success. It’s even more so when you are working to create an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) for your child who has special needs.
What is an IEP Meeting?
According to the Center for Parent Information and Resources, an IEP is “a written statement for a child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and revised in a meeting in keeping with certain requirements of law and regulations … can be understood as the blueprint, or plan, for the special education experience of a child with a disability across these school environments.”
You know that the IEP meeting is coming up, but you are apprehensive about what to expect. IEP meetings can sometimes be demanding and frustrating when your concerns are not heard. However, this collaboration and commitment to your child’s education can be a positive one.
Here are some key ways to prepare for the IEP meeting to ensure productivity and success.
4 Ways to prepare for your child’s IEP meeting:
1. Know who to expect at the IEP meeting.
When you receive a call from your child’s school regarding an IEP appointment, ask what the purpose of the meeting is, how long it will last, and who will be attending. Many parents getting this type of call are surprised to find 5 or more individuals – mistakenly thinking they were meeting with the principal alone.
The professional setting up the meeting should inform parents of all parties attending, but they sometimes assume parents know and may fail to notify them. It can be intimidating to be greeted by so many professionals at once. In an IEP meeting, you will likely meet with the school psychologist, the speech/language pathologist, the resource/special education teacher, your child’s child care worker/aide (if applicable), school occupational therapist, school social worker, each of your child’s teachers in addition to the school principal. Sometimes, for a portion of the meeting, the child is also present.
2. Never attend an IEP meeting alone.
Meeting with so many professionals can make you feel outnumbered, especially as you talk about your child’s needs. Some points that arise may be difficult to swallow. You’ll want to have all the moral support you need.
Have your child’s other parent, a family member, or a friend attend the IEP meeting with you. You have the legal right to have a support person with you. If no one is available, find your local legal defense/advocate for individuals with special needs. Call well in advance so that you can learn your rights and know how to advocate for your child. This office can provide you with a legal advisor to attend the meeting with you, often at no cost.
I suggest also having any professionals your child sees outside of the school setting like a specialized educator, a privately hired speech pathologist, a tutor, social worker, etc.
3. Prepare ahead of time.
Before the meeting, make a short list of:
- Your child’s strengths
- Your child’s challenges
- Questions/concerns regarding his education
- Goals you’d like to set this year
- How you need more support as a family
List things your child enjoys in school as well as what he does not enjoy doing. These points provide insight into what kinds of strategies the school can carry out.
Bring copies of recent evaluations from a rehabilitation/medical team. You might want to print out that genetics/research or psychological report you received upon receiving a diagnosis. There may be recommendations in those reports school teams are required to follow to ensure success for your child.
4. Only sign the IEP when satisfied.
If you are not completely satisfied by the IEP, do not feel pressured to sign it. Work with your child’s school to come to an agreement that includes both goals and solutions. Only sign on the dotted line when you are thoroughly pleased with the plan. It may require more than one meeting.
Remain hopeful that your child will attain the goals if the school works together with the home. Check in with your child’s teachers regularly and raise concerns as they arise. For your child, a supportive team will make all the difference!
About the All-Star Blogger
Gabriella Volpe is a homeschooling mom of a child with special needs, a certified teacher and the homeschool consultant for families of children with special needs. She knows first-hand what it means to struggle with educational planning for a child who does not fit the system and is limited by resources and products intended for children without disabilities. She helps parents find ways to adapt and modify the curriculum so they don’t have to spend hours figuring it out on their own. She also helps after-schooling families of children with special needs navigate their way around the homework hours. You can find her at www.GabriellaVolpe.com