IEP meetings are incredibly stressful. So much is at stake, and the school always seems to have the upper hand. At a typical IEP meeting the parents are outnumbered, rushed, and bombarded with reams of complex paperwork. It’s no surprise that many Parents feel overwhelmed and make mistakes that undermine their child’s right to a truly individualized education plan.
Before your next IEP meeting, review this list of the ten most common mistakes, and begin to take back control over your child’s education.
- FAILING TO RECORD – There is no more valuable tool than an intelligible recording of an IEP meeting. You are entitled by law to record your child’s IEP meeting; the only requirement is that you provide 24-hour notice. Always give notice, record, and maintain the recording of every IEP meeting. Use a recorder with a digital interface (USB connection). Tip: If you use an App on your phone make sure to place it in “Airplane Mode” or any incoming call, text or alert will stop the recording.
- TRUSTING MEMORIES – Schools have lots of students; teachers and administrators have lots of IEPs. If something isn’t recorded or in writing IT DID NOT HAPPEN. Keep all documents and recordings. Make all requests in writing, and confirm in writing any conversations.
- NOT GETTING DOCUMENTS IN ADVANCE – The school will have already discussed the assessments, placement, services, and other recommendations prior to your meeting. Assessments and IEPs are long and complex; no one can read and understand them while meaningfully participating in a meeting. Request copies of all assessments, present levels, goals, and related records at least 72 hours prior to the meeting. Tip: If they are not provided, cancel the meeting. Make it clear the meeting was cancelled because the school failed to provide the records necessary for you to participate as a “member” of the IEP Team.
- NOT HAVING A GOAL – If you go into an IEP without knowing what you hope to achieve (different placement, increased services, additional accommodations, etc.) you have no hope of succeeding. Write out your goals ahead of time and bring them with you.
- BEING RUSHED – It is common for the school to set a time limit for an IEP meeting, and then control the agenda so there is little or no time left for parental concerns. If they provide inadequate time, or hog the meeting as when (within the next 30 days) the TEP Team will reconvene to finish. Don’t leave without a fixed date and time.
- BEING RUDE OR ABUSIVE – You are recording (remember #1) so keep your cool and watch your temper. You should present as firm, but open to persuasion. Tip: Never resort to obscenities, yelling, or personal accusations.
- BEING TOO NICE – As bad as being rude is being overly nice. The school will want you to agree to praise about your child’s strengths and progress. Don’t agree to things that are untrue, or require explanation. Remember: Your child has a right to a free and appropriate public education, be firm about holding the District to their legal obligation.
- NOT ASKING QUESTIONS (LOTS) – You are probably not an expert in education, but you are in a room of them. They should be able to explain abbreviations, terms, and most importantly why the plan they have put together for your child will work. Don’t let anything that sounds questionable or surprising go by without asking questions until you are satisfied. Remember: even if you aren’t an expert in education, you are an expert of your child.
- BELIEVING THE DISTRICT – Just because a teacher, school psychologist or administrator tells you something does not mean it is true. Many times, the “rules” they allude to are more practices or local policies. Ask to see a printed copy of any rule, or law they use to justify an action with which you disagree. Tip: Special education law is complex and many school personnel don’t understand it very well. Be particularly wary when they cite the law (ie. “he/she isn’t legally eligible).
- SIGNING THE IEP – The typical IEP is 20 + pages, and virtually every IEP meeting results in additions, deletion, and modifications to the draft. The District has had plenty of time to review and discuss the documents prior to the meeting. You deserve equal time. Never let the District rush you. The last signed IEP, and all the services and accommodations from the last signed IEP remain in place. Tip: Take the IEP home, review it, and sign it once you are convinced the proposed program will provide an appropriate education for your child.