Your Checklist for a Successful Individualized Education Program (IEP)

Young boy at school with backpack on

Before the IEP Meeting

1. Know your rights. Section 614 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) sets out the process and elements of what needs to be explored to develop and revise an IEP. States and local school districts add their own policies on top of what is required under the federal law. A good first step would be to find out the procedural safeguards. School districts are required to provide a document that outlines the parent’s rights in the IEP process. Be sure to review a sample IEP document to become familiar with the various sections.

2. Think about the specific supports your child may need. You know your child best. Think about the strategies you use to help your child at home that might translate into a school setting.

3. Explore if you want to bring someone to the meeting with you. This person can be anyone you want, including a friend or someone with special knowledge about your child.

At the IEP Meeting

1. Start with a statement about your child’s strength. Every child has a strength. He might be happy, or social, or be caring, or like to sing. Invite IEP team members to share one of your child’s strengths. This statement will set the tone for the rest of the meeting.

2. Focus on educational achievement. Focus on the outcome you want for your child and then leverage the expertise of the IEP team members to develop jointly a plan of service that is unique and appropriate to your child.

3. Placement is not the first decision. Where your child is educated is determined after you decide what services and supports she needs.

4. Don’t get hung up on the unit of service. Truthfully, it really may not matter if your child gets occupational therapy three times a week for 45 minutes or 2 times a week for 60 minutes. What matters is that the IEP spells out the goal and establishes the services needed to achieve the goal. For example: He understands and can write all the letters of the alphabet. Plus, there can be more than one way to achieve a goal, like understanding the ABCs.

5. Trust your gut. If a piece of the IEP doesn’t feel right, and you can’t reach agreement with the school, make the IEP document this lack of agreement. The IEP is not an all or nothing document. You can agree with the majority of the elements, but not every element.

6. Think about your child’s future. Aim high. Don’t wait until high school to start planning for what your child can do as an adult. Every skill your child achieves in elementary school will help him be independent as an adult.

7. Establish a clear communication plan with the school and your child's teachers. Stick to this plan. You and the school are partners in your child's development and learning.

After the IEP meeting

1. Enjoy and celebrate your child. Many parents, myself included, focus so much on what it takes to care and nurture a child that we can forget to find time to simply enjoy her. Every stage of a child's life has its own set of challenges and rewards. Make sure you and your child know you both are in this life together, for the long run.

Related Resources:

6 Strategies to Prepare for Your Child's IEP Team Meeting

Know your rights. Review Section 614 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

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