Preparing For a Successful IEP Meeting

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” – Alan Lakein

In my last post I shared the keys to advocating for your child were to…

  • Embrace the fact that YOU are your child’s most valuable Child Study Team member, and the “expert” when it comes to him or her.
  • Dream the biggest of dreams for your son or daughter and create a “master” plan for your child (i.e. “forever” plan) and use this to identify key benchmarks/mile markers which then drive the construction of your child’s IEP.

Now let’s move on to the formal preparation needed for a successful annual review meeting. Here are the steps I follow:

  1. Request an advance copy of your child’s draft IEP.images
  • I typically ask for a copy of the draft at least a week in advance to the meeting.
  1. Thoroughly review the draft IEP noting your questions, concerns, and recommendations regarding its content to serve as talking points during the meeting.
  • As I review the proposed IEP I do a side-by-side comparison of the IEP currently in place and the draft for the following year making note of the progression of the goals, as well as how the trajectory of the goals fit into the overall “big picture” plan for my girls.
  1. Construct goals of your own that align to your child’s “master” plan, or long-term plan, taking care to include goals that nurture academic, behavioral, and social-emotional targets.
  • Academic targets: Review progress reports, report cards, homework, classwork, etc. to help identify academic strengths and weaknesses to target for the upcoming school year. Keep in mind what does on-grade level work look like as you’re writing these goals.
  • Behavioral targets: Don’t just think of these as targets to address aggressive, or largely disruptive behaviors.  Included here are any behaviors that are needed to support your child in a “typical” or mainstream setting. While we targeted echolalic/silly talk Jordynn often engaged in, we also included things like raising a hand to answer questions, reading silently, and differentiating voice modulation during whole class versus small group discussions.
  • Social-emotional targets: I was slow to appreciate the importance of social-emotional targets, I understand now that these skills play an important role in your child’s development. These skills are both intra- and interpersonal processes, and include your child’s experience, expression, and management of emotions. They also include your child’s ability to establish positive and rewarding relationships with others. When constructing these goals remember to do so with both in-school and out-of-school settings in mind.
  1. Compile a list of whom you would like in attendance at the meeting. Share your list with your case manager so that an invitation can be extended to the personnel you have identified.
  • Typically meetings include therapist that work with your child (i.e. OT, PT, Speech, etc.), general education teacher, special education teacher, and your case manager. If you wish to have any one else from the district attend (i.e. department supervisors, reading specialist, behaviorist) your case manager will work to coordinate schedules so that they can attend.
  1. Identify someone who will attend the meeting with you—spouse, advocate, etc.
  • I never attend IEP meetings by myself. I have found it incredibly beneficial to have someone else attend with me; if not in person, then via teleconference. Having someone else attend with you reduces the likelihood that discussion points held during the meeting are lost or that their recollection is one-sided.
  • Bring someone who possesses strengths that are not your own. In my case I can be extremely direct, assertive, and I am not readily accepting of the word “no.” On the other hand, my husband has the gift of gab, can negotiate with the best of them, and has a knack for working a crowd. Couple this with his undying commitment to girls and it makes for a winning combination.

This list in no way is an exhaustive. I am certain there are other additions or revisions to the list that could be made. These however are strategies that I have found to be invaluable in my preparation. I welcome your feedback and comments.


About ShaeBrie Dow

Life-long learner, mother, wife, educator. Dedicated to leaving the world a better place than I found it.
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5 Responses to Preparing For a Successful IEP Meeting

  1. joy2979 says:

    Thank you again! Once my toddler goes to sleep I am breaking out the previous IEP and going down the list here. I really enjoy the step by step instructions they definitely help me navigate what assertion I should be bringing to the meeting rather than trusting the others on the IEP team to navigate the conversation for me.


  2. joy2979 says:

    Oh and I have a friendly request: do you have any experience with the 504 plans? I have been told by the doctors to obtain one in addition to the IEP but I am uncertain of the difference and what the 504 offers my child. Love to read your thoughts and any experience you have with that!


    • ShaeBrie Dow says:

      That sounds like a great blog topic. I will try to fit it in. Starting out a student can have either a 504 or an IEP; they cannot have both. A 504 refers to a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that protects against discrimination based on a person’s disability, while an IEP is the product of the Individuals with Disability Education Improvement Act (IDEA) and sets out to ensure a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE). Overall an IEP has more bite to it compared to a 504 across the board. The easiest way to distinguish is that an IEP contains things districts MUST do, and a 504 contains accommodations districts SHOULD do. I will be honest in some districts you will find that 504s are treated very similarly to IEPs, but this is not always the case. When it comes to 504s districts must demonstrate good faith efforts to meet the expectations set in a 504 while in an IEP they must meet the criteria or face litigation. Check out a easy to follow side-by-side comparison of the two.


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