Question: How should I prepare for an IEP meeting?
Answer: There may be meetings where you’ll feel that you should have prepared with a kickboxing class and maybe a morning at a shooting range. But in general, you should prepare the way you would for any important meeting: make notes on what you want to say, do some research if necessary, and know what you want to get out of it. It might be helpful to talk with other parents -- whether in your school district or on an Internet bulletin board or e-mail group -- to find out what services they have received for children with similar needs to yours. You will be in a stronger position to make requests if you can back it up with proof that other schools and other districts do indeed offer those services.
It’s also immensely helpful if you can go into a meeting knowing what you want. As a good team member, you will still listen to and consider the opinions of other members of the team, and you will consider compromises and concessions. But the more you rely on the professionals to tell you what you think, the more likely you are to agree to things that are not really in your child’s best interests. Put your solution or suggestions out there, and let the burden be on them to tell you why or why not, and to offer alternatives.
To mentally prepare for what can sometimes be a challenging and emotionally wrenching discussion, it may help to do a lot of reading about your rights and successful strategies. One excellent Web site for this is Wrightslaw, a treasure trove of information about special education rights and advocacy. But my personal favorite source of IEP-girding inspiration is an essay called ”Play Hearts, Not Poker”, which outlines the sort of collaborative but assertive attitude that I think offers the best chance of IEP success. For more ideas on IEP meeting prep, read my article "Before You Go to an IEP Meeting."
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