Getting Ready for the IEP

This blog is being written by a teaching parent.  I am a teacher, but I am always a parent first.  I am going to explain some things that I did the past few days to get ready for an important meeting tomorrow at my son’s school.  I want to be clear: I am not giving advice.  I am telling you my preparation story.  Let me apologize for a dry blog post, but I do want put it out there, in case anyone can find it helpful.  Once again, I am NOT offering advice…

Tomorrow, hours after the classroom presentation, I have my son’s IEP meeting.  An IEP is an Individualized Education Plan; it’s a legal document that says exactly what a child needs extra help with and how it will be delivered.  Each year, before it expires, we have to meet as a team to make sure that it still meets my son’s educational needs.  Someday, if my son does not qualify for special education, I can still put him on a 504 Plan because of his diagnosis, which is technically PDD-NOS.

First, I listed my son’s strengths.  I considered things he does really well at home and with friends.  I am excited to hear his strengths in the classroom too.  I also made a list of concerns that I have about him as a child and a student.  For example, I wrote down reading words as a strength and inferencing (making conclusions based on information from the book) as a concern.  I try not to have a long list, but I do list EVERYTHING, even if I don’t bring them up, I have them down in case I need them.

Secondly, I found and read his current IEP.  I am lucky, I am a teacher and I know what many of those things mean.  If I didn’t know what they meant, I would write down questions parents are allowed to ask questions until they understand.  I placed sticky notes on the IEP on areas that I am concerned about, or that I don’t think apply any more.  I also wrote down LOTS of questions to ask the professionals.  I made sure my questions were focused on the goals of the IEP.  (I try really hard NOT to treat the IEP like a parent-teacher conference.  Those are different.  The IEP is about how his delays and educational concerns will be addressed.)

I know my rights as his parent too.  With my notification, I received a current copy of my rights, I looked through them to see if anything has changed.  (If you have a child in special education, read your rights.  They are good to know.)

Finally, I looked at his plan and current services.  I am prepared with ideas in case they decide that certain services are no longer necessary.  We are a team, and I am a member on it, as a parent, my opinion matters, even if I don’t always get my way.  I have a feeling one of his services will be dropped tomorrow.  While, I am very concerned about it, I have looked at how it has been serviced the passed two years.  I am ready with concerns in that area, but I am prepared to accept the decision of the team, since it most likely is not necessary because of the way the public school can address it.  I am considering going private with it, or at least having a professional consultation so I can help him at home.

Tomorrow, to the meeting, I am bringing my notebook, his IEP, a black pen, and a positive attitude.  Showing up angry or defensive won’t do anyone anything.  Instead, I go ready to advocate and speak up, but also remembering we are all on the same side.  School professionals want what is best for the student, and I truly believe that.  However, this is my chance to be my son’s voice and to make sure his needs are being met.  I really don’t want a repeat of the playground problem from two weeks ago and that is my main concern.

At the meeting, the only thing I have to sign is the attendance form.  I do not have to sign the IEP tomorrow; however, I normally do.  Once again, I believe in the professionals at my son’s school.  If I am not comfortable with the decisions of the team, I do get to think about it or take time to ask questions.  I do need to sign it before the other one expires, so he can have a working IEP in place.

I hope I have thought of everything and I am ready for the meeting tomorrow.  I want to trust professionals, but through our autism journey, I have learned to know as much as I can, and be ready to advocate.  While I do trust our school’s staff, I know that Scott and I love our son more than anyone.  It is our job to make sure his needs are being taken care of every moment of every day.

Another resource: 10 Common Mistakes Parents Make at an IEP  (I am not endorsing this website, I am sharing something I found online that I found helpful.)

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4 thoughts on “Getting Ready for the IEP

  1. As a special ed teacher, this is a wonderful post to read. Obviously, being a teacher yourself you have greater understanding and insight into the whole process, it is would be absolutely wonderful if all parents came to these meetings so well prepared! Good for you and I hope your son has a fabulous year!

  2. I hope everything goes well at your IEP, they are very helpful & can be very valuable to have!! I used to be a preschool teacher and for part of the time I worked in an autism specialized preschool as a one-on-one assistant for a 4 year old boy with autism and there were so many hassles trying to get his IEP, not having a good one can really stand in the way of getting access to valuable resources!! You sound extremely prepared and involved which is definitely exactly what you should be doing for your son, I’m sure everything will go great 🙂

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