Preparing for an IEP
There are several things that parents should and should not do when attending an IEP meeting for their child. First and foremost parents need to come prepared, being forearmed with information is in the child’s best interest. Parents should not come into the meeting focused on what they want for their child; rather they should have suggestions of what they think their child needs in order to be successful at school. Parents should have their focus on what the professionals are recommending be done for their child, because these are the things that the school will most likely follow through on, as there is a professional recommendation rather than just a parents say so. This is not to say that a parent should not have their own ideas to suggest and work into the professional recommendations though. Be an active part of the meeting; ask questions and give feedback! Lastly, a parent should not have a closed mind when attending an IEP, they need to be open minded so that they can not only be receptive to feedback but so that they can be a part of coming up with a workable plan that is in their child’s best interest.
The IEP and initial evaluation can be a long and stressful process. Parents are their childs best advocate, and this means that the parent needs to be involved in the process every step of the way. You know your child best, so while an evaluation is great your input is even better! Try to communicate with the school in writing as much as possible, so that there is a paper trail in case there is ever a question or doubt about what has transpired. When communication must take place via another method, keep track of it; write down the who, what and when. Be pushy! Sometimes schools will be slow to react, you need to be persistent. Don’t wait for the school to try to make changes. Do your homework and try different things, that way when you have your IEP meeting you can tell the evaluating team what you have already tried.
Depending on what your concerns for your child are, there are many things you can try on your own prior to the IEP meeting. There are several resources available through the internet, public library or a local or online bookstore. Some of the books that I found useful are: Raising a Sensory Smart Child by Biel and Peske, Steps to Independence by Baker and Brightman and A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children by Webb, Gore, Amend and DeVries. Many online book retailers will let you have a small online preview before you purchase, or go to your local book store when you have some time on your hand and sit down and read through a few until you find the right one for you. Remember, this is for your child and no one is going to invest more time and effort than you.