Tips from an IEP meeting veteran

tip-clipart-blackboard-helpful-tips-detailed-illustration-heplful-text-43676517Every year when school starts, parents of children with disabilities find themselves with more to consider than new teachers, school lunches and after school programs. They have to think about new Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), too.

I have firsthand knowledge of the IEP process: our son was born with physical and developmental disabilities. Gus is grown now, and a lifetime of IEP meetings has left me with suggestions to help younger parents gear up for the annual get-together with school staff and administrators. Preparing for an IEP meeting ahead of time is one way you can help make school a positive experience for both you and your child. Here are some tips:

  1. Go into the IEP meeting with the attitude that parents are an integral part of the process — your input is valuable.
  2. Make a list ahead of time of ways your child is able to function independently at home and bring that list along to the IEP meeting – it will give the staff ideas of ways your child can work as independently as possible in an educational setting as well.
  3. Know your goals for the school year and bring a list of them along, too.
  4. Listen as well as talk — sometimes we learn far more by listening than talking.

I can’t claim that every IEP meeting we went to for Gus went smoothly, but it always helped afterwards to remind ourselves that while school was a very important part of our son’s life, it wasn’t the only place where Gus learned new things. Life experiences with us outside of school provided an important part of his education as well. And when we had serious problems with Gus at school, talking with the appropriate staff member separately from the IEP meeting proved to be the best way to address those issues.

Best wishes for your next IEP meeting –and for the entire school year, too!


 

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