You’ve pressed your child’s school for testing and some learning issues have been uncovered. Your child’s school has put a plan, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), in place and you’re going to the IEP meeting. What should you expect?
IEP meetings are very professional with reports that have been prepared by each of your child’s teachers. Mountains of paperwork are generated at these meetings with everyone signing off on everything discussed. It can seem overwhelming and you may feel that these meetings become a “them vs. us” situation with the teachers and administration ganging up on you and your son or daughter. You might feel that you don’t have a say in what they’ve decided and that you have to go along with everything they’ve said or plan to do.
One word of advice as a veteran of IEP meetings is to remember that you are your child’s advocate and that no one will fight harder for your child than you will. If you feel that your child is not getting the help or services he or she needs in order to learn and meet their potential, then politely state that and ask what else can be done.
- Consider an alternative placement. It is possible that your child’s school may not have the resources to address your child’s needs. If that’s the case, then the school will have to provide the proper school setting for your son or daughter and it will be paid for out of the school’s budget. These alternative placements can be very expensive and with budgets being so tight, you may meet with some resistance. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t panic and threaten legal action. That can actually be the worst thing to do because it will halt ALL services being provided to your child until the legal issues are resolved.
- Bring in a third party. Instead, bring your child’s outside therapist, social worker or doctor to the meeting. Simply having an expert in the room will often change the tone completely. Your child’s clinician can offer an independent assessment of his or her needs and will be less emotional than you’re probably feeling at this point. It can make all the difference when the situation is more complicated than the school is used to. You may have to pay for your expert’s time and travel to attend the IEP meeting, but often this can be covered by your insurance as one of your child’s therapy sessions. It’s money well spent.
- Suggest resources the school may not be aware of. Don’t be intimidated by a conference room full of teachers and administrators. You know your child better than anyone on the planet. Follow your gut and don’t hesitate to suggest resources you may be aware of that are new to the school. For example, BrainWare Safari will often be introduced to a school through a parent who has heard about how this software program can help address learning issues such as attention problems, visual and auditory processing deficits, poor memory and other underlying barriers to learning. With BrainWare Safari, the implementation is easy and it’s less expensive than most other interventions the school could provide.
- Include your child in the meeting. It is often very helpful to have your student sit in on his or her IEP meetings so they can contribute to the discussion and help plan for the following year.
If you have other suggestions for how to get the most from an IEP meeting, please share them!