Getting ready for an individual education program (IEP) meeting can be extremely overwhelming and create a high amount of anxiety for many parents. We want to do the best for our children, but most parents do not know the process, and everyone else at the table seems to bring so much more knowledge. Remember that you are the expert on your child. How do you leverage your expertise and put your potential anxieties at bay to make sure you have a productive IEP meeting for you and your child? There are many steps you can take, but here are three we suggest starting with:
1. Be prepared
Review the reports and data that you have been given from the school prior to the meeting. Write down any questions you have or things you do not understand. Make two lists as you review the information you’ve received - one for areas in which your child is strong and another for areas of challenge for your child. Layer into these lists your own insights – remember, you have information that the school does not have from your perspective as the parent. It may get overwhelming if your child is having a lot of struggles, but note the areas of strength as well.
Pull from your experience seeing your child interact with the work they have brought home - the reports might not reflect this perspective. Pull from data about what happens at home if your child is learning in a virtual or hybrid model. Both academic and non-academic information is important for the team. Again, keep adding to those strengths and challenges. Bring this information with you to make sure that the team has the full picture. We also suggest reaching out to your team in advance with any questions you have so that you can collaborate.
2. Set your own goals for the meeting
Establish three goals you want to make sure happen at the meeting. They can be simple, like making sure to speak in the first few minutes. Or a goal can be that the team first hears your vision for your child’s educational journey before any data is discussed. It could be that the team builds into the plan a strong system for homeschool communication. It could also be that the goals in the IEP are written to build on your child’s strength. Whatever the three goals are, make sure you write them down before the meeting and keep them present in your materials so you can loop back to them.
Having your goals can help keep structure to the meeting. Goals will also help you ensure that at the end of the meeting, you know if you have accomplished the items that are important to you for your child.
3. Center yourself
Take a deep breath. Get outside for a walk. Take time to meditate. Get in a workout. Take some time to get yourself emotionally and mentally ready. IEP meetings can be tiring and emotional. Whatever works for you, clear your head and find space for the conversation that is going to be had at the IEP table.
Why do we start with these three steps? We believe the best way to get to a good outcome for your meeting is to know where you want the meeting to head. Keep centered on the strengths and challenges your child is experiencing and have goals for the support plan that you want in place. Collaboration with the school team is important and making sure to establish some key elements that you think will help your child prior to the meeting will be essential to a productive and constructive conversation.
Every voice is important around the table, and your voice should be heard. Reach out to Education Team Allies - which can help you prepare and reduce some of the anxiety - and make sure all voices are both heard and respected.
Learn more about Education Team Allies at www.educationteamallies.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.