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7 Tips for Parents: Have a Productive IEP Meeting

Here's a question a parent had:

"What can I do to make sure my child's IEP meeting goes smoothly? I don't anticipate any problems, most of my kid's IEP meetings have gone ok, but he is at a new school and I'm not sure what to expect. What can I do to make sure there's no surprises?"

As a special education teacher, I've seen many different parental approaches to IEP meetings. In general, it is best to be courteous and professional. Teachers will read your energy and respond in kind. Treat it like a business meeting and get informed.

Here's 7 tips to have a productive IEP meeting:

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1) Make prior contact with teachers BEFORE the meeting is ever scheduled.

This is best done as early in the year as possible (but it is never too late). Send a single email to all of your child's teachers. Introduce yourself, mention that you are excited for your child to be learning in their classroom. Bring up any concerns. Let them know, "if there are ever any problems, please don't hesitate to let me know." Give them a phone number and email address. If there are any problems, it's best to be aware before the meeting. 2) Call the school and ask to speak to your child's care coordinator at the start of the school year.

This is the special education teacher in charge of scheduling your IEP meetings, and should be your point person for any home/school collaborations. Ask them when the annual IEP is due (it is due one calendar year after the last IEP). Offer to schedule it sooner rather than later. If your care coordinator is scrambling to schedule the IEP, chances are it won't be a very thoughtful document. Calling and asking about the IEP shows that you are a dedicated parent who wants your child to be successful. The care coordinator will be well prepared for your meeting.

3) You are well within your rights to request a DRAFT copy of the IEP to review before the meeting.

This reduces the amount of information you will have to take in during the meeting. Read over the information and if you have any questions, go ahead and scribble all over it. It may only come a few days before the meeting, but any advanced reading will be helpful. This document should have DRAFT written all over it, and should have plenty of blank spaces (under placement and services sections). These decisions are to be made by the IEP team, of which you are a key member. 4) Do your research.

Learn about the jargon you may encounter. Knowing the terms that educators use will make the actual meeting much easier to understand.Here's a great start with the basics:

5) Go to and find out as much as you can about your child's disability.

They are a great resource for helping parents explain to other people how disabilities affect the child using an approachable, non-deficit framework. 6) On the day of the meeting, remind teachers of who your child is.

Some people present may not even know who your child is. Take the time to share some of the strengths and interests about your child. Some parents bring a framed picture and put it in the center of the table. Other parents have created documents outlining the things their child loves to do. Find what strategy feels right for you. It will have a humanizing effect that will bring everyone together for their true purpose: to help your child. 7) Know your rights.

Hopefully you will not have an unsatisfactory IEP, but if you do, here is a great resource :

These tips should help ensure that your child's IEP meeting holds no surprises for you.

I want to know....

What are some of YOUR best IEP meeting tips? Add them to the comments below!

As always email me if you have any questions at

Happy Learning!

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