This fact sheet is intended to be a general guide
to parents in how to prepare for meetings regarding a child’s
individualized education program. It is not intended to be a comprehensive
publication about all issues that might be discussed in an IEP meeting.
It is highly recommended that parents read the LDA publication
“The Advocacy Handbook: A Parents Guide to Special Education”
(see www.LDAAmerica.org) or “A Guide to the Individualized
Education Program” available from the U. S. Department of
Education (see www.ED.gov).
Once it has been determined that a student has a disability and
needs individually designed instruction, a meeting will be held
to put into writing a description of the Individualized Education
Program (IEP) the student will receive. This meeting is an opportunity
for parents and school staff to share information and to collaborate
in planning how the student’s needs will be met.
IEP meetings must be held at least once per year but can be held
more often if either the parent or the school requests it.
- GENERAL PREPARATION:
Visit your child’s classroom
Make an appointment to observe your child in class, preferably
in more than one subject area.
Review Your Child’s Records
Schools keep a cumulative (general information) file on all students
and a confidential (special education) file on students with disabilities.
You may periodically wish to review information contained in these
files. It is very important that you review this and other information
prior to an IEP meeting. If your child has recently received an
individual evaluation by a school psychologist or diagnostician,
request that a copy of the report be sent you at least one week
prior to the IEP meeting. It is also important to review information
contained in report cards, assessment scores, and other communications
the school provides regarding your child’s performance.
Ask who will be attending your child’s IEP Meeting
You should get a written list of the people the school plans to
have at the meeting and you should tell your school contact person
if you plan to bring others to the meeting as well. Also you should
ask or be informed about the expected purpose of the meeting.
If your child is 14 years of age or older and one of the purposes
of the meeting is transition planning, he or she must be invited
to the meeting
Negotiate the time of the meeting
Both you and the school should cooperate to set the meeting at
a time that is convenient for as many people as possible. It is
common for schools to give you at least 10 days notice before
scheduling the meeting. Also discuss how long the meeting is scheduled
to last. You need to feel comfortable that enough time is allotted
for the meeting so that you do not feel rushed.
Talk to other parents and parent organizations
Check with your state or local Learning Disabilities Association
as well as the State Parent Training and Information Center(s).
Review your copy of the parent rights booklet
The School should have provided you with a booklet describing
your rights as a parent. If you cannot find it, be sure that you
request another copy and review it before the meeting.
- DEVELOP A PLAN OF WHAT YOU WISH TO SAY AND QUESTIONS YOU
WISH TO ASK AT THE IEP MEETING
Ask your child
Ask your child what is going well in school and what s/he would
like to do better. Ask if your child would like to attend the
IEP meeting. As your child approaches adolescence, discuss academic
or vocational interests, possible career choices, education or
training beyond high school and where s/he might like to live
as an adult.
Prepare a list of your child’s strengths and weaknesses
Include such items as: hobbies, behavior at home, relationship
with family and friends, and difficulties or strengths you may
have noticed. A focus on your child’s strengths, interests,
and preferences and being future-oriented will significantly influence
the atmosphere, the results, and the content of the IEP meeting.
Write down questions or concerns you may have about current evaluations
or other school reports. Be sure to ask how your child is performing
in comparison with other students at his or her grade level.
Review the goals from the current IEP
Which goals are the most important to you as a parent? Which goals
are most important to help your child prepare and achieve what
s/he would like to do when s/he graduates from school? Make a
list of questions you might wish to ask about the progress your
child has made in mastering these goals. Were the goals met last
year? Should they be continued or deleted for the coming year?
Be prepared to ask what strategies teachers find successful with
your child and which ones are not working.
Write down some goals you would like to see your child achieve
in the coming year
What skills would you like your child to learn? Be specific. What
behaviors would you like to see improved? Has your child had a
behavioral assessment and does he/she need a behavioral plan?
What are your main concerns for your child right now? If your
child is in middle school or entering high school, what are his/her
career/transition interests and goals? (Review the LDA fact sheet
on Transition.) Be prepared to ask questions about the amount
of time your child will need to spend in special education in
order to meet these goals. Where will the special education services
be delivered to your child—regular classroom, separate special
education small group, etc.? Are the goals appropriate for your
child’s age and grade placement? Ask if your child has had
an evaluation for assistive technology and if assistive technology
would benefit your child. (Review the LDA fact sheet on Assistive
Technology) Be prepared to discuss whether your child needs after
school or summer tutoring (extended school year services).
Decide how often you need progress reports
The school must give you a progress report each time a report
card is issued, usually 4 to 6 times per year. Teachers often
send notes home more frequently. Do you feel that you have been
adequately informed of your child’s progress throughout
the year? What is necessary in order for you to feel that you
are adequately informed to support the school and your child?
Be prepared to support your ideas and requests
Bring copies of any recent evaluations or medical information
with you. Also bring samples of your child’s work that you
believe indicate strengths or needs for improvement. If your child
is involved in any community activities or work, bring copies
of evaluations or letters from supervisors.
Organize your materials prior to the meeting so that you can find
Write down your questions and suggestions and practice your comments
prior to the meeting.
- AT THE IEP MEETING:
Request that everyone at the meeting introduce themselves and
their role in the meeting (including anyone you have brought with
you). Write this information down for your records and date it.
You may tape the meeting if you wish, but be sure to let the other
team members know you intend to do this.
Follow the plan you developed
Systematically go through every question, concern or comment you
included in the plan you developed.
Be positive and assertive but not antagonistic. Thank the participants.
Be sure to get a copy of the IEP to take home with you. It is
okay to say you need to take some time to review the IEP at home
before you decide whether you agree.
Reschedule if necessary
If it appears that the members of the team cannot reach agreement,
or if you need time to consider recommendations, ask for the meeting
to be continued at a later date.