How to Prepare for an IEP Team Meeting

IEP Teams Develop Individual Education Programs

Mother and daughter with teacher in classroom

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Individual education plan (IEP) team meetings are an important part of your child's special education program. Learn what to expect during meetings and how you can actively participate in this important decision-making process. Learning how to prepare for an IEP team meeting in advance is important for your active and effective participation.

It's important to be as informed as possible about your child's educational abilities. Review your child's report cards, progress reports, the results of any assessments, grades on classwork and homework to identify areas of strength and weakness that you want to be addressed on the IEP;

Know the purpose of the meeting, and reflect on issues you feel are important. Find out who will attend the IEP team meeting and their roles. You should also make your own notes about what you would like to discuss. Refer to your notes during the meeting to help you ensure your concerns are addressed.

Know Your Rights as a Parent and IEP Team Member

As the parent of a child with learning disability as defined by the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), you have specific parent rights. If you have a copy of your rights, it can be helpful to review them before the meeting. If you have questions about your rights, talk with your school's IEP team chairperson or your school district's special education coordinator.

Setting an IEP Team Meeting Date

In most cases, the IEP team chairperson will contact you to attempt to schedule a time and place that is mutually agreeable to hold the meeting. In advance, you should also receive written notice of the meeting. However, you and the school may agree to waive the written notice to hold the meeting as soon as possible if there is a need to do so.

Learn About IEP Team Members and Their Roles

Because of the need to protect confidentiality, your child's IEP team meeting will likely be held in a conference room, classroom, or office where privacy can be assured. Depending upon the purpose of the meeting, attendees may include:

  • You - ​Your presence is very important.
  • A school administrator, such as a principal, to manage the meeting and ensure IDEA requirements are met;
  • A special education teacher to provide information on appropriate instruction for your child's disability;
  • A regular education teacher to provide insight into the school's general education requirements, and how your child's needs will be met;
  • A school psychologist or other evaluation professional to discuss appropriate evaluations for your child, to explain results, and to provide information on your child's abilities;
  • Related service providers such as a speech pathologist, occupational therapist, mental health professional, or physical therapist, if your child requires those services to benefit from his special education program;
  • A guidance counselor to assist with curriculum, and counseling issues;
  • People with important information to share, who cannot attend the meeting, may submit information in written form or participate by telephone. For example, few pediatricians may be available for IEP team meetings, but they may provide important written information such as a diagnosis, information on the child's health or medications, or medical evaluation reports; and
  • Others as you or the school determine necessary. You may bring a support person or advocate.

A Typical Meeting Format

IEP team meetings typically begin with introductions of participants and a brief explanation of their roles in the school and their involvement with your child. The purpose of the meeting will be discussed, and you will be given a copy of the IDEA Procedural Safeguards, sometimes called parents' rights.

If you received a copy of the safeguards before the meeting, read them and jot down any questions to ask the team. If you are new to the process, or just need clarification, feel free to ask the meeting chairperson for an explanation of the rights. Parents experienced with the procedural safeguards may waive discussion of them to allow the meeting to get underway.

IEP teams typically meet to consider an initial referral for evaluation, to discuss evaluation results and determine eligibility, to develop a child's Individual Education Program, to discuss educational progress at an annual review, to plan for a transition from one program or school to another, and as needed to discuss any issues that may arise.

During meetings, members share information about the child, discuss needs, and determine the most appropriate way to meet those needs. Decisions are made by consensus.

The IEP must contain essential elements, such as assessment scores and progress data to determine your child's present level of performance. Goals and objectives will be written to help the child improve.

A written summary of the meeting is prepared, and you should receive a copy of it. The summary should clearly state the decision made by the team, how it will be implemented, how the effects of the decision will be measured, and who, by title rather than name, is responsible for implementation.

If you disagree with the team's decision, share your concerns with them. You may record your disagreement with the team on the conference summary. Learning how to advocate effectively may increase your chances of reaching a solution to the disagreement.

By Ann Logsdon
Ann Logsdon is a school psychologist specializing in helping parents and teachers support students with a range of educational and developmental disabilities.