The most common thing I hear from parents is “I don’t know what to expect at my next IEP meeting.” And you know what? I’ve felt like that too! Most parents are not living in the world of special education. They have outside jobs, therapy appointments, doctors appointments and not to mention the normal day to day that occupies their brain. Parenting is hard! Special needs parenting comes with this need for an entire encyclopedia set of things you need to remember. Dates, times, people, appointments, rules, laws, resources… when freaking show and tell is…. I mean the list is EXHAUSTING!
When it comes to IEP meetings, there may always be a sense of unknown because you aren’t at school involved in the day to day. But there are a few things you can do to feel more prepared.
- Ask for a draft copy of the IEP. I know I sound like a broke record, but for real! Get the draft so you understand what will be discussed ahead of time. Get the draft EMAILED to you so you can forward it to a friend (or an IEP Coach… hint hint.) for a second set of eyes.
- Ask for an agenda. Again, knowing what will be discussed is monumental in how prepared you feel walking into the next meeting. Still feel unsure? Phone a friend!
- Know who is coming and what their role is at the meeting. I’ve been in meetings with 15 people and meetings with teams of just 5. Knowing who these people are and why they are sitting in on the meeting, takes away some of the unknown.
- Understand what your role is at the meeting. I say it all the time, YOU are the ONLY expert on your child. Your opinion, concerns and goals are needed in order for the team to best support your child. Write it all down in the Parent Input Statement and send it to the school prior to your meeting.
Now let’s go around the table and introduce ourselves! (This is not an all inclusive list, and all these people may not attend YOUR meeting. This list is an example of who may attend and what their role may be. You will receive notification of attendees with your meeting invitation.)
I see you all like What??? This does not apply to all students of all ages. AND it does not have to apply to the entire meeting. However, students should play an active role in the development of their IEP, especially in middle and high school years. For younger kids, I think this is a case by case thing. For example, my 10 year old would be bored out of his mind and not engaged in a 2 hour meeting. However, he would be able to attend at the end of the meeting for a recap or the beginning of the meeting to share his input.
OK DUH. But… I’m using this again to help drive home the point that YOU ARE SO SO SO IMPORTANT. This is your opportunity to be the expert. Writing a solid parent input statement will help you feel prepared and heard without succumbing to the overwhelm often felt at the table when you are put on the spot. It’s OK to bring it and read it off the paper. Email the team a copy too so it is added to the IEP under parent concerns. Need help writing a parent input statement? Shoot me an email Nicoleschlechteradvocacy@gmail.com and I’ll send you a template to use.
General Education Teacher.
This will depend on placement, but this is the teacher who spends the majority of their time in school in class with your child. Their input is essential in figuring out what is working, what isn’t working, where the struggles are and where the opportunities for growth are also in correlation to the curriculum being taught.
Special Education Teacher.
While the general education teacher may spend most of the day with your child, the special education teacher comes to the table with an understanding of your child’s needs and strategies that can be used to best support those needs. This person will be working in close contact with the general education teacher and support staff to help facilitate the implementation of annual goals and troubleshoot any struggles. This person may also be in charge of testing or retesting your child when appropriate.
This person is in theory knowledgeable about special education and general education. This may include the principal, vice principal, a special education liaison designated by the school or others. This person will be helping guide the meeting according to the law and be able to make decisions on funding and school resources.
Social Worker/ Counselor.
Ideally this person has a good rapport with your student and is a consistent figure in their days. Their role will be to address social and emotional deficits your child may be struggling with as well as conducting testing to best understand where those deficits may lie. This person will also be working on the development and implementation of annual goals.
Like the Social Worker, this person will also be working on the development and implementation of annual goals. They will be able to address things like fine motor skills like handwriting or sensory issues and transition. They may also suggest assistive technology or other accommodations to help better support your child at school.
This person will be discussing your child’s speech… I know I know, obviously. But they will also be responsible for the development of annual goals and implementing them. They will be evaluating your child for more than just speech but also trouble swallowing, motor skills, speech issues and how your child uses their language too.
This person is typically at IEP meetings to help children who may have a medical need, are on medication or to assist with discussing health issues that may impact a students ability to access the curriculum.
General Education Teacher
The general education teacher is required to be present at the meeting to provide input on the general education curriculum, provide insight on potential modifications and be able to speak to accommodations or supplemental aides that may be necessary.
All of these people above may not be required to attend an IEP team meeting if the parent of the student excuses them in writing or they are not providing services to the student.
Again, this list is not all encompassing. There may be other educators included who have direct knowledge or input that would be relevant at the meeting for your child.