IEP Process

Before the IEP Conference

Taking a few steps to prepare before the IEP meeting may help you feel more confident about the process and prepared to be an advocate for your child.

Prepare the IEP Meeting

Talk to your child. Involve your child in the process. Find out what his or her feelings are about school, home and friends. Ask what he or she thinks are his or her strengths, what he or she wants to learn, or if there is something he or she would like to do better.

Become knowledgeable about your child's disability. Learn as much as you can about your child's disability and how it may affect his or her education.

Review your child's file. If you have concerns, you can make an appointment with the school and review what is contained in your child's record prior to the IEP meeting. Make sure you understand what it contains.

Review any previous IEPs for your child. Previous IEPs can serve as a roadmap or compass for future plans. If your child currently has an IEP in place, review it before starting the process over. What goals had been set for your child? How has your child progressed toward those goals? What seems to be working well? Are there areas that your child may need more assistance? Answering these questions can make the re-evaluation process go smoothly.

Make an outline of what you believe your child needs to learn. Examine long-range goals you have for your child and rethink them if necessary. Consider annual goals that will have value for your child and your family, and which will help your child accomplish his or her long-range plans.

Prepare a list of questions. Writing down a list of questions you have will help to make sure you don't forget anything during the meeting. Many of your questions may be answered as the IEP meeting progresses. Don't hesitate to ask questions to make sure all of your concerns are addressed.

Talk with other parents. Talking to other parents of children with disabilities can be an invaluable resource. Learning from those who know what you're going through can make things easier and put the process in a different perspective. Learn as much as you can from them about their IEP experiences.

Invite others to the IEP meeting. Inviting others who may be able to provide information about your child to the meeting can be valuable. This may include any therapists, counselors or doctors who may be working with your child outside of school. If they cannot attend, ask them to prepare a statement or progress report that you can share on their behalf during the meeting. You also may want to invite a relative or friend to attend who can provide moral support or who makes you feel more comfortable participating in a group. As a courtesy, be sure to inform the teacher if you plan to bring someone to the conference.

Attend the meeting. You are an important part of the team and your input is valued. As a parent, you are the first and best advocate for your child. If you are unable to attend, call the teacher to reschedule. It's also important to go to the meeting with a positive mindset and willingness to try new things. Look at the meeting as an opportunity for growth and a chance to make things better for your child. Remember, this is a team effort and everyone working with your child needs to be working together in order to produce the best results.

What to Bring Checklist

  • Goals you have for the coming year — put your child’s needs and preferences at the center of any discussion

  • Examples of strategies and interventions that have and have not worked

  • Last year’s IEP

  • Positive mindset and willingness to try new things — look at the meeting as an opportunity for growth and a chance to make things better

  • Realization that not everyone may agree — try not to be judgmental or defensive

  • Commitment to collaboration — acknowledge and respect each team member