How to prepare for IEP meetings

Written by Dan McCool

Dan is a Speech-Language Pathologist and owner of Second Mile School Therapy. He has been working with school districts for 20 years in Southwest Missouri.

September 12, 2023

IEP meetings can be a source of stress and apprehension for administrators, teachers, and families alike. However, with the right preparation and approach, these meetings can become more constructive and less intimidating. In this article, we provide valuable tips to enhance your IEP meeting preparation, fostering a smoother and more productive experience for all involved.

  • Gather and Organize Your Data:

When you step into an IEP meeting, arm yourself with concrete data and work samples that substantiate your observations and assessments. While subjective opinions hold value, they must be supported by empirical evidence. Consider showcasing examples of the student’s work at the beginning of the IEP period compared to work samples from the end of the IEP; this visual representation often tells a compelling story of the child’s progress.

  • Emphasize Strengths and Positives:

In IEP meetings, it’s all too easy to focus exclusively on challenges and deficits, which can be disheartening for parents and counterproductive. Prior to the meeting, take the time to outline the child’s strengths and positive aspects. Be specific and provide concrete examples of their accomplishments. A balanced discussion that acknowledges strengths and challenges fosters a more constructive atmosphere.

  • Avoid Reading the Entire Document Aloud:

While it’s prudent to create a draft IEP as a starting point, remember that IEP meetings are collaborative endeavors. The document should be a flexible guide, not a rigid script. Avoid reading the entire document aloud during the meeting, especially the Present Levels of Educational Performance, goals, and minutes sections. Instead, use these sections as discussion prompts to engage the team in a productive dialogue.

  • Eliminate Surprises:

In IEP meetings, surprises are seldom welcome. When there’s difficult news to share, it’s best to provide the team with a heads-up beforehand. Additionally, inform teachers that you will be inquiring about the student’s strengths and classroom performance. This advanced notice allows them to prepare their thoughts, promoting a more constructive conversation.

  • Come Prepared:

Arriving at an IEP meeting empty-handed can create a negative first impression and signal unpreparedness. Ensure you are well-equipped by bringing a draft copy of the IEP, along with essential tools such as a notepad, tablet, or laptop. These materials will facilitate note-taking during the meeting, enabling you to record parent concerns and questions. Taking notes demonstrates your commitment, validates parental concerns, and enhances your ability to be an active listener.

Implementing these five strategies can significantly enhance your IEP meetings and create a more positive, collaborative atmosphere. While there may still be challenging meetings from time to time, your increased preparedness will empower you to navigate them effectively and assist the IEP team in developing successful plans for each student. Remember, the key to successful IEP meetings lies in thoughtful preparation and a commitment to the well-being of the students you serve.

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