You're the head coach and cheerleader for Team ‘Your Kid’. Hopefully, the teachers and staff at your child's school are enthusiastic team members. But even if that's the case, they have a lot of students to support – so it's your job to advocate for your child and make sure they don't fall through the cracks. That's why you can't walk into an IEP meeting unprepared. This is your chance to make sure your child is receiving the services they need, so make sure you come prepared by answering some important questions before the meeting.
Do I Have the Last IEP?
Go into the meeting armed with copies of previous IEPs and records related to your child's diagnoses or accommodations. Whether or not you can request a copy of previous IEPs varies by district. If you can get it, go through the document point by point and make a list of any changes you feel need to be made.
Do I Know the Lingo?
You might hear other meeting attendees use phrases or acronyms unique to IEPs, so it's important to understand them in order to follow what's happening.
PLOP = present level of performance
SMART goals = Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented and Time-bound
BIP = Behavior intervention plan
IDEA = Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
IEP = Individualized education programs
But don't hesitate to raise a hand and ask for an explanation of anything you don't understand!
What Does My Child Say?
The meeting is about what's best for your child, so why shouldn't you involve them? Ask your child how the school year is going, and how any previously-established accommodations are working. Is there anything your child wishes his/her teachers would do differently, or anything that interferes with his/her ability to do his/her best work?
Have I Done My Homework?
Before you talk about your child's progress, make sure you know how he/she is really doing. Review recent grades and teacher's reports, and talk to other adults in the child's life to see what they've noticed. Is your child struggling more with focus now than last year, or have his/her grades improved since being moved to a new class? Also, make a written list of any questions and concerns you want to address. Leave blank space to add notes during the meeting.
Do I Need Help?
If your child's needs are complex, or you just feel overwhelmed by the whole IEP process, consider hiring an education advocate. These professionals are experts on the legal rights of students, and can help parents navigate the IEP process with the child's best interest in mind. Brain Balance has worked with over 30,000 children and their families and we know we can help yours, too. Contact us to learn more about our program!