Having completed a few hundred IEP (individualized education plan) meetings between yearly meetings, initial IEP meetings and revision meetings, I’ve learned that you have to be prepared for anything. Sometimes, however, the meeting may not go the way you expect, no matter how prepared you are. While the majority of IEP meetings run smoothly, it still helps to be ready for the unexpected.
Send a Draft in Advance
The best piece of advice I can give to anyone who is part of an IEP team meeting is to be prepared. Sending home a draft of the IEP to the parents in advance helps meetings run more smoothly, since it prevents parents from being caught off guard by anything in the IEP on the day of the meeting. They are able to review the draft, formulate questions and be prepared. A 30- to 40-page document on a single child can be overwhelming, and I have found that providing it early helps parents learn the process and become more comfortable asking questions. Of course this is an IEP draft, so it can be changed at the meeting, but the present levels and some other sections usually stay the same or are modified only slightly.
Generally, I allot an hour for each IEP meeting on an IEP day, so I can complete about six meetings in one day. (Depending on the family, an hour is generally enough time to sufficiently address all sections of the IEP.) Since the draft has already been sent home, I briefly talk about each section of the IEP, though the team spends the most time on the sections covering present levels and specially designed instruction. This is a good time to show all of the progress monitoring data or examples of student work. It’s also the time to allow other team members, such as the guidance counselor, to discuss how the child is doing socially or emotionally.
Having data, updated test results and examples of student work allows me to be prepared for the difficult questions I receive. Two common questions are, “How does my child compare academically to his/her peers?” and “When will my child catch up to others his/her age?” These are difficult questions to answer; you can only be prepared to show your data and focus on the individual child and his or her progress rather than comparing the child to others.
At the end of the IEP meeting, expect to take a few minutes to sign all the necessary paperwork and tie up any lose ends. I like to view an IEP meeting as a time to share the growth of a child, to discuss strengths and weaknesses and to make educated decisions about the future and the child’s education.