January is often the time when many parents will be getting phone calls or emails from their child's case manager to set up their annual IEP (Individual Education Plan) meeting. While these meetings can be intimidating for both parties it is important to remember that the goal of the meeting is to provide an opportunity for both teachers and parents to review progress and collaborate on their child’s educational goals and objectives.
During the IEP meeting, team members analyze progress made and construct future goals based upon their quantitative and qualitative data. Based upon these observations, recommended changes to the plan are discussed with the IEP team to keep providing students with the ongoing supports needed to be successful.
This process my leave parents feeling nervous about an upcoming meeting and what changes the school may be recommending. Although IEP meetings bring a multitude of feelings to the surface for all involved, they can be a very productive, enlightening, and encouraging if both parties do a some preparing in advance.
Listed below are some tips for IEP team members to keep in mind when preparing for and holding the annual IEP meeting:
1. Talk with the student or child and involve them in the process. Find out what his or her feelings are about school, home and friends. Ask what he or she thinks are his or her strengths, what he or she wants to learn, or if there is something he or she would like to do better.
2. Review your child’s file. Familiarize yourself with your child's previous IEP goals/objectives. Be aware of your child's disability and how it affects his or her's education. If you have concerns, you can make an appointment with the school and review what is contained in your child’s record prior to the IEP meeting. Make sure you understand what it contains. The Family Rights and Privacy Act insures your right to examine school records.
3. Make an outline of what you believe your child needs to learn. Examine long-range goals you have for your child and rethink them if necessary. Consider annual goals that will have value for your child and your family, and which will help your child accomplish his or her long-range plans.
4. Prepare a list of questions. Writing down a list of questions you have will help to make sure you don’t forget anything during the meeting. Many of your questions may be answered as the IEP meeting progresses. Don’t hesitate to ask questions to make sure all of your concerns are addressed.
5. Attend the meeting. You are an important part of the team and your input is valued. As a parent, you are the first and best advocate for your child. If you are unable to attend, call the teacher to reschedule. It’s also important to go to the meeting with a positive mindset and willingness to try new things. Look at the meeting as an opportunity for growth and a chance to make things better for your child. Remember, this is a team effort and everyone working with your child needs to be working together in order to produce the best results.
6. Examples of strategies and interventions that have and have not worked or any programs you are doing at home. This helps the school staff use some of the strategies your child is using successfully at home in the classroom. It is important to note that some strategies and programs fit the home environment better so all programs done at home are not always the best fit for school but are important to bring to IEP teams attention.
7. Realization that not everyone may agree — try not to be judgmental or defensive. All team members should remember that this meeting is a collaboration and each person's opinion and input is important. If things become too intense, it is best to call for a break or table the meeting for another day and time so that the meeting remains productive and collaborative.
Always remember that the IEP is the foundation of your child’s special education and should reflect the current needs, strengths and focus as they grow and develop their education. A student’s likelihood for success starts with parents and teachers coming together on behalf of the student and keeping their best interest in mind.
Please contact The Speech Spot today if you have questions regarding the IEP process as it relates to Speech and Language Therapy.
Resource: Special School District of Saint Louis County