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Dear ADDitude: How Should I Prepare for an IEP Meeting?

“The school has completed its testing and filed a 33-page report, which recommends an IEP with special education help for my child. This Friday is the actual IEP meeting with the director of Special Education. How should I prepare? What else is considered when determining next steps?”

ADDitude Answers

These meetings are intimidating for many parents. My best advice is to, like the Boy Scouts, be prepared. Read the entire 33-page report, highlighting areas where you have questions or disagree. Write down your thoughts. Also, make a list of your child’s strengths and weaknesses and which accommodations you feel will work best for your child. Be specific and include reasons why you think these accommodations would be important.

Go into the meeting with an open mind. Remember that you are in the driver’s seat. The school administrators will present their findings and explain the accommodations they feel are reasonable. You don’t have to agree with or sign the IEP. You can ask for a few days to think about it and, possibly, request a second meeting. You can agree with some accommodations and not others, or you can suggest different accommodations. If you and the school cannot agree, request mediation-and always keep your child’s needs on center stage.

Posted by Eileen Bailey
Freelance writer, author specializing in ADHD, anxiety, and autism

ADDitude Answers

Try to keep a positive attitude and don’t worry about the outcome, unless they give you a reason to worry. Try your best to keep it polite and not adversarial. I really hope that your school will offer what your child needs and you won’t have to fight.

Write down your list of parent concerns and your child’s present level of performance at school and bring copies for everyone at the meeting (even better, email it to the one who sent you the meeting invite before the meeting). If an IEP is drafted, make sure your concerns and present levels are typed into the IEP-every word.

Here’s more on what to expect and how to prepare.

Posted by Penny
community moderator, author on ADHD parenting, mom to teen boy with ADHD, LDs, and autism

[Free Download: 8 Rules for Productive IEP and 504 Meetings]

A Reader Answers

Here’s my two cents. Go into the meeting with an open mind and hear what everyone has to say. Don’t feel rushed or pushed into making any decisions – you can ask for time after the meeting to digest everything you’ve heard and think about it for a few days. Trust your gut – if there’s something they recommend that you are not comfortable with/you feel is not in the best interest of your child don’t hesitate to say so and ask for alternatives. You know your child best. Good luck!

Posted by brlk13

A Reader Answers

Hi, I am a self-contained ED teacher for the elementary level in our system. Your child is entitled to a free and appropriate education. Determining what is appropriate involves looking at your child’s individual needs/behaviors and devising a plan to manipulate the school environment/work load, and also to teach the skills your child needs to solve future problems.

This must be provided by the school. It can be anything from having a full-time aide to help your child throughout the day, to having a self-contained classroom. While the school doesn’t have to offer the “perfect” scenario, they do have to provide your child with an adequate education.

The IEP plan should have specific goals to address your child’s academic needs based on state standards, behavioral needs, and organizational needs. If behavior is a problem, the school is required to do an FBA (Functional Behavior Assessment) to figure out the what is causing problem behaviors and then come up with a plan to address them.

The goals the school includes in the IEP should be based on data from the FBA. For example: At this time, Jon shows on task behaviors in the classroom (listening, participating appropriately, doing written work) for 50% of the 50 minute class period as shown by time data collection periods over the course of 5 days. The other times, he is out of his seat and distracting others. GOAL: Jon will demonstrate on task behaviors (listening, participating appropriately and doing written work when assigned) 90% of a 50 minute class period. OBJECTIVE 1: Jon will demonstrate the ability to be on task 75% of the time by the end of 6 weeks of instruction as measured by random data collections in 4 out of 5 instances.

[Get Specific and Set Goals: Writing IEPs That Work]

The IEP should include accommodations to help your child achieve these goals. For example: A daily behavior chart, a reminder on the desk, or a rubber band on the chair to tame fidgeting. They should be geared towards reminding your child of the goal, and helping him achieve it. The ideal is an accommodation that helps your child without making your child stand out as different. After 4-6 weeks, the plan should be evaluated. If the measures have not helped, new ones should be put in place.

Make sure the school gives you copies of all IEP documents, has you sign a permission to evaluate form for an FBA if it’s needed and gives you adequate notice of meetings. Take notes at the meeting, and ask for clarification if you don’t understand something. You can bring a relative or educational advocate to help you during the meeting.
Don’t feel obligated to sign anything if you don’t agree with the results of the IEP evaluation.

Posted by Edteacher

A Reader Answers

Go to and check out what it says about IEPs. Try to learn everything you can about them and the law around them before the meeting. On the website they have a disability yellow pages by state. Go to your state and sift through to find your local advocacy group or parent’s support group. You may want to bring an advocate or friend to the meeting to support you or help you take notes.

Ask the school for copies of any reports they will have at meeting in advance. Bring your own copies of outside reports from physicians, and let the school know what you will cover before the meeting.

Think about the areas your child struggles with and what goals you want for him or her. At the end of the meeting, you can request a copy to take home and review if you aren’t ready to sign. Then you can come back and sign later, or you can agree to part of it and continue to work with the school on the disputed part.

Posted by E’s Mom

A Reader Answers

Here’s some more things I’ve discovered in the process of getting my son’s IEP:

1. Keep everything – all correspondence. If it’s a written note in an agenda, make a photocopy. Keep all of your child’s schoolwork as well. I just bought a big accordion file to keep all the stuff in. I tend to correspond with my son’s teachers by e-mail. I’m glad I did as the school is now reversing their position on my son’s disruptive behavior in an effort to avoid an IEP. I have e-mails that say different. If you can’t get correspondence in writing, take notes of your discussion, and date them.

2. Never go to a school meeting alone. If your spouse can’t make it, bring a friend. Notify the school in writing that you will be doing so. At the beginning of the school year I sat with my son at a meeting with all of his teachers, principal, assessment principal, guidance counselor, and ESE specialist. I thought it was a teacher conference and felt overwhelmed and intimidated. That will never happen to me again!

3. Be prepared. Do your research and know what you want for your child.

4. Go to the board of education website and see what your rights as a parent are. You may also find a parent advocate there. I did.

5. Be persistent. Follow up phone calls with e-mails.

6. Try to be polite and firm in your dealings with the school. However, if the principal isn’t helping, go over her head.

Listen – I’m no expert. I’m learning as I go. It’s heartbreaking and frustrating but I remind myself that this is my son. If I don’t do it, who will?

Here’s a link to another site I’ve found helpful.

Posted by izzymom

A Reader Answers

Here are some basic principles to consider.

1 – All IEPs should answer some basic questions. What are the child’s basic strengths and challenges? What is the evidence that supports the school’s statements of strengths and challenges? (It should be both assessment data and in-class observation.) What is the plan to meet every challenge? What is the evidence/rationale that the plan is the correct one?

2 – Needs drive goals, goals drive services and accommodations. Avoid putting the cart before the horse, and choosing accommodations without thinking about needs first.

3. Can they explain the plan in plain English with reasonable logic that doesn’t rely heavily on, “That’s the procedure” or “That’s how we’ve always done it here”?

4. Finally, if you take the IEP and hand it to a special educator who does not know the child. Can they read it cold and have a reasonable ability to understand strengths and needs? The service plan and accommodations? Why the plan is written the way it is?

Posted by Dr. Eric

[Everything You Need to Know About IDEA, IEPs, and Section 504 Plans]