For The Mom Headed Into Her First IEP Meeting

For the first time in several years, I sat down in an IEP meeting last Fall.

I was overwhelmed, a little intimidated and genuinely confused for most of the meeting. I left with a deep sense of unease.

I wish I would’ve said…

Why did they mention that test score?

What did they mean by…?

The IEP was temporary and only in place for a few weeks as my son participated in a specialized, public program.

But it was eye-opening.

For The Mom Headed Into Her First IEP Meeting - #specialeducation #specialneeds #IEP #autism #adhd

 

 

Last week, a sweet mom emailed me asking what I recommend for a mom heading into her very first IEP meeting.

I had a few suggestions, but quickly realized that my years of homeschooling have sheltered me from this very real, very necessary process.

In an attempt to help, I asked the question to the moms on our Facebook page.

The response was overwhelming and supportive. Thoughtful answer after thoughtful answer reminded me just how much we need each other.

We need the experience and wisdom of other moms that have gone before us.

 

To The Mom Headed Into Her First IEP Meeting

Here are real life quotes, from real life moms who have experience from years of IEP meetings.

“Do your homework and make sure you are familiar with the language the experts use in IEPs. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions.”

“Listen to their recommendations and make sure they align with your child’s short and long-term goals in order to succeed in school.”

“Take notes. Don’t feel obligated to accept or agree with what they’re saying. You can say no.”

“Donuts.”

“Coffee.”

“Remember that although they are experts in their professions, as a parent, you’re the only expert on your child and his or her needs.”

 

“Don’t let them rush the meeting. If they do that don’t sign the IEP and schedule a second meeting if necessary.”

“Remember FAPE – Fair and Appropriate Education. Even when homeschooling.  It is the district’s job to help your sons succeed…not just barely push through.”

“Don’t sign the IEP if you’re not satisfied with it.”

 

Go with an open mind and heart, and be prepared to share what you know about your child. We have had both good and bad IEP experiences. If you are working with caring and professional educators, it can be a great time of conversation about what your child needs to be successful. If something feels off, or you disagree with their suggestions, try to take a step back and hear them, but don’t be afraid to stand your ground when necessary. Know your rights as a parent.”

“You HAVE to push back if need be. No matter what they say, if you disagree, you are probably right. Lol.  Listen well. The specifics are important. They have to be written down exactly for the teachers who resist. If something isn’t working, set up another meeting immediately and revise. Don’t worry about being a nuisance. You’re not. It’s their job.”

“I send the IEP to someone else who has been through it. This is where experience can be a huge help. Have them point out what might have been missed.”

“You will be facing a lot of daunting information about what your child may or may not be doing. My tip: make sure that you personalize the process right off the bat. Bring pictures of your child. Let the folks gathered know he/she is more than a label.”

“Remain calm, put your shields up, be professional and remember you are in charge! People are going to basically list all of the bad qualities/disabilities. You will be grilled and questioned and doubted. But you are your child’s voice and these people work for you and your child. Make it a professional meeting, write notes, these people are not your friends, they are business associates.

“Have no advice because we have always had a decent experience, except for our first one where we were hit by a “bus”. It was at my son’s first IEP in kindergarten that they announced they were transferring him to a different school. I also recommend not going alone. We had my son’s OT come along. She didn’t say much during the meeting but it was comforting having here there. It was also nice having someone in addition to my husband about how the meeting went. The first meeting had tons of people there (vice principal, school counselor, district OT, district speech therapist, district nurse, his teacher, his new teacher, and possibly a few more, I was in a daze, I just remember it feelings like a lot of people). The yearly meetings after this have been far less intense and the team we work with is wonderful. Good luck. Oh, and coffee if it is in the morning.”

“Both of my children have an IEP, and my experience was to listen to their assessment and collectively figure out and be in agreement on what is best for the child. They asked me my concerns about my child’s development (including socially) and we just went from there. I think in total we met about 3 or 4 times over the course of my daughter’s time in elementary school. It has helped her tremendously, and I was surprised at the growing number of children that were added each year to the program. Oh, and most of all, pray.”

 

“Listen carefully and ask questions every time you’re confused (which will be a lot) by what they are saying. There is no time limit.”

“Do not sign immediately. It is OK to take the IEP home and review before signing.”

“I begin by setting a positive tone. Thank everyone for coming and being on your child’s team and say that you’re all committed to helping your child grow and learn. Tell them you appreciate what they do for your child. I’ve done that every year for 14 years. Oh, and bringing munchies and a box of Joe doesn’t hurt.”

“Donuts.”

“Coffee.”

“Remember that although they are experts in their professions, as a parent, you’re the only expert on your child and his or her needs.”

The only thing I would add to this goldmine of wisdom is this –

Most of all, I hope you know that you are not the only one. You are not alone.

And you can do this. 

What would you add to this list? Please share your best IEP advice in a comment below or on Facebook.  

Posted in IEP

2 thoughts on “For The Mom Headed Into Her First IEP Meeting

  1. My best advice is do NOT sign it right away. Take it home, read it again after everyone has gone to bed and you can devote all your attention to it. Write down any questions you may have and remember, you can ALWAYS request another meeting.
    Also, as my (adult) daughter is one of the ones on “the other side” of the table, I know this helps…be responsive; don’t wait until the morning of the IEP to call and say you can’t make it. It’s HARD to schedule in all those meetings. They have a certain amount of time to get them done, no matter HOW MANY the school has to do. Being informed and interested tells them that you are there for your child and that means a lot. You’d be amazed how many parents just don’t show up. Don’t be that parent.

  2. See if your state offers an advocacy or parent advocate. In MO, the agency we use is MOspin. They attend the meeting and know all the legal things that go along with an IEP to ensure the school is doing the correct things. (Usually they do, but having an advocate helps by taking notes, asking clarifying questions, etc.) They’ve been through the process before and know all the ins and outs, allowing you to focus on what your child needs.
    Second, I would suggest communicating in writing with the school. With FAPE, our son needed a 1/2 day of school, but we weren’t getting anywhere with that process until I put in writing to clarify that I understood that the 1/2 day was not an option for my son, and very quickly, we were offered a 1/2 day option for him, after verbally discussing over the phone for over a month.
    We have had a good experience, even as a homeschool family. Ultimately, we decided to place our son in a 1/2 day program for the social aspects and routine/structure of school, but the IEP had nothing to do with that decision. He would have gotten the services regardless, it just looks different. This is available even for preschool children if you plan to homeschool!

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