The members of the IEP team have busy schedules. Finding a date and time that works for all members can be a logistical nightmare. When the members are able to come together it is critical that everyone be ready to discuss the necessary issues and work together to aid the student at the heart of the meeting.
In order for an IEP meeting to be productive it is important for each member to prepare in advance. Here are some things to think about as you get organized:
There is a Student Behind Every Meeting: Each IEP team member should spend time thinking about the student. Behind every IEP meeting is a student with individual needs. Every member of the team should be focused on meeting the needs of the student.
Each Team Member Deserves to be Treated Respectfully: IEP team members are not drones. They are real humans with real feelings. Each member should be prepared to discuss their position on each issue without making personal attacks towards other members of the IEP team. Judgmental statements and blame have no place at an IEP team meeting and don’t help the team members work together.
Identify Agenda Items: Each member of the IEP should have an idea of the items they would like to have discussed at the IEP meeting. Items on an agenda can be checked off during a meeting so nothing is missed.
Reports: Any party who intends to share a report at the IEP meeting should circulate said report among the IEP members before the IEP meeting.
School districts are required to provide a copy of an assessment report at no cost to the parent. (20 U.S.C. Section 1414(b)(4)) The law does not provide a timeline to determine how far before an IEP the assessment reports must be provided. In my opinion, a parent should not attend an IEP meeting where the assessment reports were not provided. If you have not had the opportunity to review the reports then you may not be able to fully participate in the meeting. (34 C.F.R. Section 300.322)
Federal Law does not give the school district the right to request copies of assessment reports obtained by parents at their own expense. For various reasons, sometimes parents don’t provide copies of the reports to the IEP team before the meeting. In deciding whether to provide copies to the IEP team members the parents need to determine whether the IEP team will be able to consider the report if they aren’t provided a copy. If the IEP team is provided a copy of the report they are required to give it consideration.
Draft IEPs and Goals: It is not illegal for a school to prepare a draft IEP to be used at the meeting. It is only illegal to prepare a final IEP. School representatives should make it clear that any draft IEP is a draft only and will not impact a parent’s ability to provide input into the final IEP. The district should provide a copy of the draft IEP to the parents so they can review it before the IEP.
It is not typical for parents to draft an IEP but they may want to think about what goals they would like to have included in the IEP. In my experience it is helpful to send goals I think are necessary to the IEP team members before the IEP.
Anticipate the Problem Issues: Review past correspondence and, if appropriate, prior IEP documents. Identify any problematic issues that may arise during the IEP meeting. For any problematic issues you anticipate brainstorm options for resolution to discuss at the IEP meeting.
Anticipate Difficult Moments: When members of the IEP team disagree over a particular issue the meeting can quickly deteriorate. Do not get overwhelmed about these situations. The IEP team members need to remember that preparation of the IEP is a collaborative process. Brainstorm ways to deal with difficult moments.
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