IEP meetings are can be stressful for everyone- Administrators, teachers, and families. To make the meeting go as smoothly as possible, here are a few tips to help you prepare:
1) Gather and organize your data.
When you report on the student’s performance, come with data and possibly work samples. Subjective opinions have value, but it needs to be backed up with data. Examples of work at the beginning of the IEP period vs. work samples from the end of the IEP can often tell the story of the child’s progress.
2) Be ready to talk about what is going well and the child’s strengths
Too often, IEP meetings focus exclusively on the negative. This can be discouraging and irritating to parents. Write out several positives about the child; specific examples are useful.
3) Do Not Read aloud the Entire Document during the meeting.
The purpose of the IEP meeting is to develop the IEP as a team. It is a good idea to create a draft of the IEP, but it is not set in stone until the team agrees. Allow the draft agreement, especially the PLEP, goals, and minutes section, to serve as a discussion guide.
4) Avoid Surprises
In an IEP meeting, surprises are rarely exciting; it feels more like an ambush. If you have hard news to discuss, it is better if the team has a notion of what is coming. Also, tell teachers that you will ask about the student’s strengths and performance in class. This advanced notice will give them a chance to gather their thoughts.
5) Do Not Come to the Meeting Empty Handed
If you have diligently followed the first four steps, you are nearly ready for the meeting. The last thing, if you arrive empty-handed, you look unprepared. Avoid a poor first impression by arriving with a draft copy of the IEP, a pad of paper, a tablet, or a laptop. These materials will allow you to write down parent concerns and questions. By making notes about parent comments, you validate their concerns, show your engagement, and you will become a better active listener.
These five suggestions will help the meeting go smoothly. Although you will certainly have meetings that seem to go sideways from time to time, you will feel more prepared, and you will help the IEP team create a winning plan.