Springtime is Meeting Time: Tips on Preparing for Your Student’s IEP

The days are longer, the tulips are getting ready to bloom, and the schools are abuzz as meeting season gets underway.

With summer just around the corner, spring is the time when families look to their students’ Individual Education Plan (IEP) for support as they prepare for the end of one school year and the start of another. As surely as spring is marked by robins and tulips, it is also marked by a rise in the number of IEP meetings popping up on calendars everywhere. In addition to their annual IEP meetings, many families are scheduling meetings to address concerns with their student’s progress or performance, or to prepare for the transition to the new classrooms and new buildings.

With all of these meetings on the calendar, The Arc fields countless calls from parents who all have the same question: How do I prepare for my child’s IEP? We know the IEP process can be both overwhelming and intimidating, but it can also be energizing when families are informed and prepared. As Rod Paige, the former United States Secretary of Education, once said, “There is no more powerful advocate than a parent with information and options.”

To help you grow into a powerful advocate for your own student, here are some tips and resources from The Arc’s education and family advocates.

1) Do your homework and bring your notes.
The IEP meeting can be very emotional. If you take the time to review and understand key documents and issues before the meeting, it reduces the pressure you might feel during the meeting. Instead of simply reacting to what you hear, preparation will help you to respond thoughtfully.

2) Think about your student’s educational needs.
Your student is a learner, and the IEP is the tool that will help your student gain skills and knowledge. Take some time to think about what progress your child has made over the last year, and begin thinking about where your student should focus next. Using all of the information at your disposal, take some notes on your student’s educational progress and performance. What has he learned over the last year? What areas is she still working on? What does she seem to be struggling with most? What information was shared with you during parent-teacher conferences, on report cards, or in IEP progress reports? Keep these notes handy while reviewing the draft copy of the IEP to help you see if the proposed goals and objectives are a good fit for your student’s current needs.

3) Review the meeting notice.
You are part of a team that is working towards the same goal of an appropriate education for your child. The school team members are there as experts on education; you are there as the expert on your student’s needs. Be willing to share your knowledge with the team. Do you know all the people who will be there? If not, ask your case manager who they are and what their role will be in the meeting.

4) Read the draft copy of the IEP
You should receive a draft copy of your student’s proposed IEP at least two days prior to the meeting. Read it closely. Compare it to last year’s IEP report and look for items that need to be added, removed, or adjusted. Make a list of questions you want to ask during the meeting. When reviewing the IEP, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you understand what it says about your student’s academic level?
  • Do you understand what interventions/services are needed for your student to learn?
  • Do you understand the accommodations your student is receiving? Can you imagine what these accommodations look like? For example, maybe your IEP states your student will receive “flexible scheduling/breaks” – do you how flexible scheduling and breaks are woven into your student’s day?
  • Do you understand the special education services your student is receiving? For example, if the IEP states your student will receive 30 minutes of integrated services in general education classroom for motor skills, do you know what this means? What are integrated services? What motor skills are they working on?
  • Do you know how often the special education teacher and the general education teacher are working together to meet your student’s goals?

5) Speak up!
Now that you’ve done all this work, take your notes with you to the meeting and make sure you share your thoughts and get answers to your questions.

IEP Preparation Resources

As you prepare for your IEP, The Arc recommends the following resources to help with your preparation.

1) The Arc – Jefferson, Clear Creek & Gilpin Counties’ Website
As a leader in advocacy for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, The Arc has a wealth of information on our web site, www.arcjc.org. Check out the What We Do section for specific areas of interest. If you are receiving this eNewsletter from someone other than The Arc, make sure you sign up for our weekly email updates to stay informed about the latest news, resources and training opportunities.

2) Your School District’s Website
No matter where your student goes to school, your school district should have information about special education in their district. In Jefferson County, visit the special education page here. In addition, Jeffco families should get involved with the district’s Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC). Not only does SEAC support and advise district leadership on special education concerns, but they also list events and resources of interest to families. Clear Creek County information can be found here and Gilpin County information here.

3) Peak Parent Center
Peak Parent Center is Colorado’s parent training and information center. They offer free trainings for parents and are known nationwide for their Inclusion Conference. They just completed a three part series on the IEP process in a webinar format. They also have webinars on transitioning from grade to grade. All of their webinars are available on their website under Trainings at www.peakparent.org.

4) Pacer Center
Pacer Center is a parent training and information center based out of Minnesota, but their comprehensive web site, www.pacer.org, is useful for parents everywhere. The site has articles, webinars and newsletters, and most of their materials are available in Spanish. Some of our favorite articles:

5) More Resources
Click here to check out a list of our advocates’ favorite sites for research and continued learning about special education law!

If you have any questions about special education or education and family advocacy and would like additional assistance, please feel free to contact us directly at (303) 232-1338 or by email at info@arcjc.org.

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