Don’t sign the IEP if you still have questions. Take home the IEP and think about it. You have 10 days (think I got that number right) to make a decision on giving or with holding consent. Don’t let anyone rush you.
Bring people to the IEP meeting (especially important ones like initials). The fact is, this is your kid people are talking about. You are going to have all sorts of emotions to process in the meeting. Bring someone else who can ask questions and support you. Most of us bring someone to the doctor when we have an important appointment because we know we will forget to ask some important questions– think of IEP meetings the same way.
Ask questions about how. Words on a paper are really nice– and often what gets litigated in the court. But I always want parents to ask about HOW I am going to get their kid to meet their goals and what their day is actually going to look like. Even the best written IEP is pretty useless– it is the quality of the instruction and support that matter so that is where the discussion should focus.
Please, please be on time. Every person at that table is incredibly busy and is taking time away from actually teaching, supporting students, and a million other things to be there with you. When you are late, you are taking time away from your child and other children. If you want a good relationship with the school team, come on time and avoid cancelling meetings at the last minute.
Speak up when you are confused or disagree. Honestly, I struggle with understanding some people when they present at IEP meetings. They finish their presentations and I am thinking, “Huh?” If you don’t get what they are saying or disagree, share it at the meeting. I really appreciate it when parents ask me questions– it shows me that they are engaged and let’s me focus on what is important to them.
Be present in the meeting. I have sat in meetings with 15 people trying to figure out why a student is struggling enormously in school while the parent keeps looking in their lap to check their text messages or takes three phone calls. If you figure that each of those 15 people are making $30-$50 an hour, that one hour meeting is costing the school district at least $600. We are investing that money and time because parents matter, not because we want to talk to each other.
Knowyour rights. Basically your parent rights say that you are the most important person at that meeting. The law is written to favor you– not the school or teachers. Don’t let the school overwhelm you– you really, really do matter and that has been proved over and over again in the courts.
Put things in writing. You can request an IEP meeting, request an assessment, and request records– but you need to ask for things in writing. Email counts.