5 Ways to Prepare for Your Child's IEP Meeting
If your child has been recently diagnosed, or if your child has been receiving services for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) for years, the initial IEP meeting can be daunting. It’s often completely new territory, one in which you will find yourself needing to serve as your child’s advocate to ensure they receive the maximum benefits that will help them succeed in a school setting.
Our last blog detailed what the actual IEP document contains. The optimal result is an IEP (individualized education plan) you feel confident in and are comfortable with, so preparation is key. Here are 5 ways you and your family can prepare before the IEP meeting in order to serve as your child’s strongest advocate.
1. Do Your Own Research
You enter the IEP meeting with the most expertise on your child. When preparing for this meeting, your expertise should expand to their abilities and challenges as a child diagnosed with autism. As you know well, no two children on the autism spectrum are the same, and each has unique needs in the classroom environment.
In addition, take time to look into accommodations available to students with special needs. Accommodations are tools used in the classroom to make the lesson the most accessible to your child. This includes being seated near the teacher, having regular breaks from the lesson, visual cues and charts when possible, and many other options. Get an idea of what would help your child so you are able to offer input at the meeting.
2. Ask for Relevant Documents Before the Meeting
Gather and review any past documents you have that might give insight into the needs of your child. This can include progress reports, IEPs from other years, and any important assessments. For any evaluations done by the district, request the results be sent to you prior to the meeting. Be sure to obtain any report from doctors related to your child’s needs as well. Being prepared with these documents makes you a knowledgeable and confident participant in what can be an overwhelming meeting.
If your state allows, you are able to request the draft of the IEP prior to the meeting. Take time to review it and decide if it meets your child’s unique needs. Show it to your child’s Springtide therapists for a second opinion. That way, you will feel more secure that you will end up with the IEP that is most effective for your child.
3. Take Time to Review Before Signing
Many times at an IEP meeting, you will be asked to sign the document before you leave. However, this isn’t mandatory and it is wise to take time to mull over the proposed plan before agreeing to it. Sometimes, after the meeting, you may gain clarification on something or have a realization about a change you want to make.
As a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, if nothing else, pay close attention to these two items:
- Classroom placement - If the IEP indicates most instruction is with few distractions in a small group setting, this means your child will be in a self-contained classroom for solely special education students. Make sure that is what you think will meet your child’s needs.
- Services provided - Many districts will offer speech therapy and occupational therapy, but behavior therapy is more difficult to obtain. If this is something your child needs, make that clear to the team.
4. Know Your Rights
Being unfamiliar with the IEP process in the early years, many parents yield to the knowledge and expertise of the school team to formulate the IEP, and the parents tend to accept it. Yet, the child is still your child, and you have the last word when it comes to their education.
You should be a vital participant in the process, and feel as such. When the district offers you a date to meet, it must work for you as well. If you are concerned about your own knowledge, you may bring others with you to the meeting, including therapists or a special education advocate. You have the right to disagree with the child’s placement. And, if you disagree with the findings of the district’s evaluation, you have the right to seek an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE), where someone from a separate organization conducts an evaluation.
5. Consult with Experts
At this point, there are likely evaluators and therapists who have worked with your child. Don’t hesitate to seek their advice about the upcoming IEP meeting. You can even ask them to attend the meeting in order to offer input and advocate for your child. That way, the school district can gain as much information as possible when planning for the following year.
Many of you are already an important part of our Springtide family. If you have an IEP meeting on the horizon, be sure to talk to us. We can offer suggestions, share evaluations and recent progress of your child, and support you along the way. If you have any questions or concerns while preparing for your IEP meeting, feel free to reach out on our website, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org give us a call at 888-260-1609.
Reach out today and speak with one of our enrollment specialists to get started with Springtide