IEP meetings: How to prepare for IEP meeting
Updated: October 16, 2023 · 4 Minute Read
Lisa M. Carey, Education Advocate at Undivided
- An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting is a gathering of the IEP team to create or update the IEP and discuss the child's progress. Parents can request an IEP meeting at any time.
- During the meeting, the team reviews the child's goals, progress, and shares ideas and suggestions on what supports or accommodations may be helpful to achieve those goals.
- School staff is required to go over every section of the IEP with parents and explain every part.
- Parents do not have to sign the IEP at the meeting. You can take it home and look it over before signing.
Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings: How do I prepare for an IEP meeting?
When asked for her best advice and pro tips for preparing for an IEP meeting, parent advocate Dawn Dee Millhouse said:
- Write a very thorough parent vision statement. Include where you want your child to live and work and what community/faith based activities you would like them to be involved in. From there, she says, “You can then list out what you perceive the barriers are for your child to meet those goals. They [the IEP team] can work goals and activities around breaking down those barriers.”
- Make sure that your input covers everything. The IEP team will ask for your input. “There are no word limits for your section of the IEP,” Dawn reminds. Parents often lament about forgetting to ask for certain things or discuss certain issues — keep your vision statement and notes handy so you don’t miss anything.
- Make sure they go over every part of the IEP with you. They’re required to go over and explain every section of the IEP. “They will sometimes skip over parts of the IEP. There are no unimportant parts and parents should know what is in every part,” she adds.
- Bring someone with you. “It doesn’t have to be an advocate,” Dawn says. “A partner is good, but if that person is going to be a yes-person, bring someone else. Someone who won’t let you forget the things you thought were important when you walked into the meeting.”
- If you decide to bring a lawyer, Dawn cautions, “Make sure you tell them [the IEP team], because in most cases they can’t hold a meeting with a lawyer without theirs. No point in creating unnecessary delays. It won’t be a surprise…it’ll be a stop!”
- Know your rights. This is the most important tip we’ve got. The school has to provide you with a copy of your state’s procedural safeguards. “Make sure that you know at least the basics,” She emphasizes. And remember, you’re the most important part of the IEP team.
Background: What’s an IEP meeting?
An IEP meeting is when the IEP team gathers to create, make changes, updates, or discuss the IEP and if it is working for the child. There is an initial IEP meeting to create the IEP, and then subsequent meetings to update or alter the IEP and discuss the child’s progress. If your child qualifies for an IEP, you should have the first IEP within 30 days, and a yearly IEP meeting after that for every year your child is in school. But you can request an IEP meeting at any time you feel the IEP isn’t working for your child or isn’t being followed. It’s important to know your child’s rights before heading into an IEP meeting. For a full guide on IEPs, click here.
There are some things you can and can’t do during an IEP meeting. Learn what IEP protections are available to you before you go. Here are some expert tips for advocating for your child, and a worksheet that can help you prepare for the meeting. In addition to some common terms you need to know, check out Undivided’s comprehensive list of special education terms ahead of time.
What happens at an IEP meeting?
There isn’t one set way that an IEP meeting is run, but generally it involves everyone on the IEP team reviewing your child’s goals, progress, and sharing ideas and suggestions on what supports or accommodations may be helpful to accomplish those goals.
It’s required that the school staff go over every section of the IEP with you and explain every part. This is only a draft, because the IEP may change based on what’s discussed in the meeting. You do not have to sign or agree to the IEP at the IEP meeting. If you don’t like the IEP, you may not have to agree to it at all. Check out our guides for common IEP problems and what should and shouldn’t be included in your child’s IEP.
Do I have to sign the IEP?
You do not have to sign your child’s IEP if you don’t agree with it. (Learn how to review an IEP with confidence before deciding to sign.) You also have the option to sign and attach an addendum agreeing to certain parts of the IEP, but not all of it. Laws about signing IEPs vary from state to state. Depending on the state you’re in, you may have to agree to the whole IEP in order for your child to receive services. Some states allow schools to push through an IEP without the parent’s consent. It’s wise to know your state’s policies on signing IEPs. Learn how to handle some common IEP and 504 plan challenges here.
What happens if I don’t sign the IEP?
If your child has an existing IEP, that can stay in place so your child’s services and accommodations won’t be interrupted. In the meantime, you and the rest of the IEP team will work to reach an agreement. If you end up in a dispute with the IEP team, you have some options. It’s important to know that federal law doesn’t say parents have to sign every IEP after the initial one, so states can have different rules about this. It’s possible that depending on where you live, your child’s school can push an IEP through without your consent (if they’re already providing special education services).
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