Big Picture of Parent Participation in an IEP Meeting
Parent Participation in an IEP Meeting
As you walk into your IEP meeting, you see 6, 8, or 10 school/district personnel already seated at the table. Yes, you “expected” that many people as you read the list of attendees on your meeting notice. But, when you actually “see” that many people, your heart skips 10 beats!! Your thoughts are to run the other way, FAST!! Instead, you calm yourself because you have prepared for this meeting with an agenda and your concerns are written on your draft IEP. You walk into the room, head held high, sit down and pull out your draft IEP and agenda, ready to proceed with this meeting. You know you are your child’s voice, have reviewed the draft IEP, and are prepared to discuss your concerns and ask your questions so that your child will receive the Free Appropriate Public Education he/she is entitled to under the federal IDEA law.
After the meeting, your mind races with what was accomplished because you were prepared and proactively advocated for your child. But, not all parents are as pragmatic as you. Are there parents who don’t attend their child’s IEP meeting? What happens then?
Under the IDEA law, the IEP Team includes: the parents; not less than 1 Gen. Ed. teacher if the child is participating in Gen. Ed.; not less than 1 Special Ed. teacher/provider; the LEA (Local Education Agency/district) representative who is qualified to provide specially designed instruction, is knowledgeable about the Gen. Ed. curriculum and is knowledgeable about the resources of the public agency (district); an individual who can interpret instructional implications of evaluation results; at the discretion of parent or school/district, other individuals who have knowledge/special expertise regarding the child (including related services personnel); and the child when appropriate.1 Parents can also invite other participants (private therapists, family or friends, an advocate or attorney) and would need to designate their attendance on the IEP Meeting Notice that is returned to the school.
The IEP meeting should be scheduled at a mutually convenient time for the parents and the school/district. If the parents cannot attend the meeting, the school can also suggest parents attend by phone as an option; parents can ask that the meeting be rescheduled so they can attend on a more convenient day/time. If parents chose not to attend the meeting, the school/district can hold the meeting. The school/district does have a responsibility to keep records of telephone calls, correspondence, or visits to the parent home/place of employment to try to ensure parent participation.2 If no parent attends the meeting, the IEP team could end up with only 2-3 people at meeting: 1 Gen. Ed. teacher (if the child participates in Gen. Ed.), 1 Special Ed. teacher/provider, and the LEA.3
You are your child’s voice and as that voice, parents should make every effort to attend the IEP and prepare for that meeting. Ask that a draft copy of the “new” IEP be provided to you several days prior to the meeting so that you can review, digest it, and then create an agenda and write your concerns down. Check that all information (specifically the medical and history!!) is correct. Ensure that the “present levels” are current. Read through the goals – are they SMART (Specific, Measurable, use Action words, are Realistic and Relevant, and are Time limited)?4 These may need to be tweaked at the meeting to necessitate that each goal is a SMART goal. Parents don’t need to know “how” to rewrite the goal but you will want to express your concerns to the IEP Team and then discuss them as a team. Don’t leave the meeting until you are satisfied with the IEP and understand each part of the legal document.
Our children learn from us, so share what the IEP is all about and provide them options to advocate for themselves. These are some of the first steps for our kiddos to learn to self-advocate!
Doreen Franklin Doreen is a Special Ed Advocate and parent of 2 adopted daughters with diverse special needs. She assists parents with their understanding of legal policy, procedures, rights, & responsibilities under IDEA so parents can learn to collaboratively advocate for their child. She has been an Advocate & Coach since 2005. Doreen is also a private tutor and homeschooled her older daughter.
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- How can parents prepare for an IEP Meeting? (Part 1)
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- Whether it’s Your First IEP or You’re a Pro: 10 things to Cover at the Meeting
- Requests Prior to IEP Meetings: Eval Reports and Draft IEPs
- The Politics of Special Education: The Information You Need Right Now
- Is the IEP Individualized or Cookie-Cutter?
- Rock Your Next IEP: Tips for a Successful IEP Meeting
- Beyond the IEP Team: 6 Tips for Parent Participation at School
- Should My Child Attend the IEP Meeting?
- IEP Meeting Overwhelm? How to Avoid It!
- Calm Your Nerves – Know What To Expect At An IEP Meeting
- The Importance of S.M.A.R.T IEP Goals
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This post originally appeared on our January/February 2019 Magazine