If you’re a parent of a student who will be returning to school next year you may want to be taking time to review their IEP and making a request for a team meeting.
In an ideal world the school will have been closely monitoring the success of any accommodations and services that are in place to support your child. Living in reality, it is the role of parents to have a plan in place to review this and to prompt the team to review this, not just on an annual basis, but whenever you or your child have concerns.
Here are some tips to make the IEP more productive for everyone
1. Make your request for the IEP in writing and mail it with delivery confirmation so that every one has documentation of when the request was made.
2. If this is not an annual review, make it clear why you are requesting the meeting so that both you and the school arrive with the same agenda in mind.
3. Take a cooperative approach. Starting any IEP meeting by reaffirming that everyone is there to do what is in the best interest of the student.
4. Depending on the student, it can be important to have them participate in the IEP. This allows them to clarify any questions about “why” or “what” might contribute to any ongoing problems they are having. It also gives them an opportunity to advocate for themselves and what they need.
5. If your child is attending the IEP it is important that you not model conflict between you and the school staff. This can impact your student’s ability to accept feedback and learn in their classroom. Instead, focus on problem solving strategies.
6. Bring cookies. Sounds crazy maybe. But when anyone provides donuts or snacks to a group, they have instant rapport. Everyone likes to be thanked and shown appreciation. While you may have had a contentious relationship with school staff in the past, try to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch.
7. Before you respond to any comments, good, bad, or otherwise, take a breath and take a moment to formulate your response. This is particularly important when you feel that your emotions are driving your response. You may regret later agreeing to something or making a rash comment. There is no rule that says you have .5 seconds to respond. Asking the school staff to restate their point or telling them you need a moment are strategies to give you time to respond.
8. Before you go to the IEP meeting make some notes for yourself about any concerns you have, points you want to get across, or reminders to yourself. Don’t forget to bring this with you to the IEP.
9. You have the right to agree, disagree or ask for a revision of any decisions that are made.
10. Remember that even if a first idea to address an issue sounds good, always ask what other options there might be. Help the team to brainstorm and problem solve in new ways. Keep in mind that there are often limitations in resources that the school has to consider, but often times they become used to doing things one way and don’t push themselves to do things differently. Everyone can benefit from this process.
If you have other suggestions to share with parents please leave your comments.