We’ve all been there. You’re sitting at an IEP meeting, you open your mouth and…. insert your foot. Let’s face it IEP meetings often do NOT bring out the best in any of us. Teachers, administrators, therapists and parents too have an off day, get overly emotional or just aren’t sure how to respond sometimes. Lets talk about the mistakes you’re making, and how you can play an active role in a positive and collaborative meeting for your child.
MISTAKE 1: You aren’t prepared.
Now this is just as much on the school as it is on you, but YOU HAVE TO BE PREPARED. That means getting a draft copy of the IEP, 504, BIP or any evaluation data the school has ahead of time. Some states actually require this, but if they don’t make sure you are asking for it. This gives you the opportunity to READ it all over, write down questions, ask for a second opinion (Guys, that’s part of my job! Head over HERE to grab your IEP check up and review.)
MISTAKE 2: You show up late.
I’ve totally accidentally done this before and I felt like the biggest jerk! The school schedules these meetings on a tight schedule PLUS they have to hire a sub to jump in for your child’s teacher so the teacher can attend the meeting. Things happen, I get it. But if the meeting is not at a convenient time for you… reschedule! The meeting should take place at a time that works for everyone.
MISTAKE 3: You don’t ask for EVERYTHING to be written down.
If it isn’t in writing, it didn’t happen. So whether the team all agrees or not, everything get’s written down. Communication with the team is important and those friendly phone calls can be great for building rapport, but after the phone call follow up with an email to recap what was said for your records.
MISTAKE 4: You second guess your value at the IEP table.
I’m going to put this in caps because it is THAT important. YOU ARE THE ONLY EXPERT ON YOUR CHILD AT THE TABLE. It can seem intimidating, overwhelming and sometimes it feels like you don’t know best. You do. Everyone else is an expert at their job, they come to the table with the education and experience to offer their opinions, but none of them know your child like you do. You are the expert. You are the most consistent person on the IEP team, and you see the whole picture, not just the school day.
MISTAKE 5: You go alone.
These meetings are emotional and overwhelming and so much information is thrown at you at once. Don’t do this alone! If you think you’ll be overwhelmed, bring a friend. You can bring a friend, a family member, an advocate like me or the mailman if you want… But a second set of eyes and ears helps you feel more confident and allows for a different perspective. Sometimes an outsider will ask questions or see something that we as a team don’t see.
MISTAKE 6: You don’t write a parent input statement.
This is your turn to be the expert! Keep it as fact based as possible. You’ll want to tell the team who your child is, what they are good at, what their motivators are, how they learn best, things that are hard for them, your concerns and your goals. You know your child BEST. Your input is SO important. How many times have you sat at the IEP table with your notes and forgotten all the things you wanted to say? Yep, me too! IEP meetings are emotional and overwhelming. It’s easy to let your emotions take over, after all this is your child! You should feel some sort of emotion, but for the parent input statement, let’s try to keep facts over emotions. A parent input statement is not a novel but is written to help you feel prepared and confident in the meeting. ALSO this statement becomes part of the IEP document so that anyone who sees the IEP will read what your thoughts, goals and concerns are for your child.
MISTAKE 7: You feel forced into a decision the day of the meeting.
I’ve sat in many meetings like this. The team is proposing changes that the parent’s disagree with or maybe feel unsure about. If you disagree with changes being made or feel unsure you have the right to table the meeting and reschedule for a future time. Not all decisions need to be made in one meeting. It’s absolutely appropriate to take it all home to absorb it, get a second opinion, tour the new placement classroom etc. You are an equal team member and deserve the same information as the rest of the team. Take a minute to think things over and collect the data you need to make an educated decision.
MISTAKE 8: . You let the meeting be rushed.
I’m not kidding when I say these meetings are on a tight schedule! That being said, do not let the timeline deter you from asking all the questions you need. If the team is pressuring you to “hurry along” ask for a meeting at a future time when they can set aside the time you need to feel comfortable with the IEP. These are big decisions being made, this is your child and the IEP is a legal document. Be confident in your rights as an equal team member.
MISTAKE 9: You agree to annual goals that aren’t SMART.
Have you ever heard of a smart goal? This is not just an education thing! But in order to really make sure we are writing effective IEP goals, we need to make sure they are SMART! So often you come to the table prepared with your parent input statement, your services and minutes, the giant list of accommodations… and then you get to goals and it seems OK, so you just move on! This can be a big mistake!! Read more about Smart goals HERE.
MISTAKE 10: You come in with past lingering past meeting feelings.
This one can be a particularly hard one. And it’s not just you, it’s the rest of the team also. You’ve been through meetings that maybe felt really negative, you’ve had interactions at school with staff that left you feeling angry, maybe you’ve raised your voice at an IEP meeting. I get it, I’m guilty of all of those things. These meetings are emotional. BUT it is so important that we treat each meeting as a clean slate. You can even say that in the beginning in an attempt to change the tone. “I know the last meeting left all of us with heightened emotions. This meeting won’t be like that because we are all here to support my child in a positive and collaborative way. I’m looking forward to what we can accomplish together.” But when you say it, you have to believe it. If you don’t believe it, no one else will. These meetings need to be child focused so the minute someone steps out of line and acts defensive, call them on it and bring the focus back to your child. This isn’t about them or you, it’s about your child and they deserve a team who can put feelings aside and work together. I know this isn’t always possible, but this is the goal. Negative tone is by far the hardest thing to overcome at a meeting, so bringing it up in the beginning can be the reset everyone needs to keep the focus on the child.
Do you have more questions? Head over to here to set up your free consultation or send a quick email to NicoleSchlechterAdvocacy@gmail.com and let’s get started. Your child deserves to exceed the expectations their school has for them.
Ready to get started? Head on over to www.nicoleschlechter.com/services so we can work together to better serve your child.