“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
― Abraham Lincoln
Honest Abe has a point. Do you really want to be figuring out what your thoughts are when all eyes are on you at the IEP meeting? That's when I tend to say "Sure?" even if I don't mean it. Proper preparation will provide a game plan for your meeting and give you the confidence you need to make sure your voice is heard.
Consider this your pre-meeting checklist:
Ask for a draft copy of the IEP in advance of the meeting. IEPs are dense legal documents. A quick scan while 5 professionals are talking at once is not enough to ensure your child is being supported appropriately. Get a copy, bring it home, mark it up, use your (forthcoming!) IEP Guru tools to evaluate it, and go in knowing that document as well as the person who wrote it.
Type up your parent concerns. You know that spot in the document for you to share your thoughts? Make sure it really captures what you want to say. By typing your concerns, you can ensure that they're included verbatim in the IEP and that you don't sugarcoat your true feelings (or forget something important!) when the time comes to discuss.
Make a list of priorities. Think of this as your agenda for the meeting. Know which battles you need to fight and which ideas fall into the "this would be nice but is not crucial" category. If you ask for more than you typically expect, and you just may end up with what you need.
Bring examples and documentation. Fighting for a certain goal, accommodation, or placement setting? Bring anything that you have that supports that outcome. Doctor or therapist notes, homework or school work examples, evaluations, or even data that you've collected yourself at home. Evidence gets results more readily than anecdotes.
Come with questions, and something to write with to add more throughout. Think of this as a business meeting, and the IEP team is trying to sell you a product-- an educational program crafted specifically for your child. Use your W's-- Why was something chosen over something else? Where will this intervention take place? What assistive technology option would be least restrictive? This shows that you're invested and that you want to be a collaborative part of the process. A win, win!
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