Ten Ways to Take Charge of Your Child's IEP Meeting or Family Support Plan

By: Janet Holmes

  1. Be first…make sure you talk first. Don't be afraid to lead the IEP meeting. Bring notes, take notes and make all introductions yourself. It's your school, your teachers, your child. Put your priorities on the table for discussion first.
  2. Build a strong base of information. You know your child. Get to know his school behavior, attend his class for a substantial amount of time. Be sure to use the appropriate visiting procedures but don't be afraid to make a surprise visit. During the IEP meeting ask questions if you do not understand. You are the expert for your child, but you are not expected to understand all school terminology.
  3. Know your rights…Public Law has given all parents rights and schools legal responsibilities. How can you advocate for important issues if you're not sure you are right? Local family and state organizations hold workshops for parents. Find them!
  4. Bring notes…make your own goals for your child. Start with making long-term goals for your child and family. Take your own notes to the meeting and write long- and short-term objectives in your words. It is appropriate to include your suggestions, you should expect nothing less.
  5. Know how to say no…be gracefully firm. Take a firm stand on important issues and only important ones. Be willing to compromise and don't expect to get it all. Choose your fight carefully, and then use the phrase "that is unacceptable." Have your argument ready, but always speak carefully. Get areas of disagreement written on the plan or, better yet, go home and write a letter to attach to the IEP. Don't be rushed into accepting anything; IEP's can be continued at a later date. The IEP will go forward without your signature, but you need to document your disagreement in case you wish to take the issue to due process.
  6. Make friends…at school. Always support your school and teacher. Be the room mother, volunteer to help whenever you can. If you are respected as a supporter of the school, you are more likely to be respected at the IEP. Let people know you appreciate them, make positive comments. A few kind words can only open doors for you and your child.
  7. Keep your cool…angry parents are sometimes written off. Although anger is sometimes needed to get your point across, remember, parents who lose their temper are quickly labeled as uncooperative and unreasonable which can make it easier for personnel to gather others against your ideas and concerns.
  8. Keep records…put it on paper. Maintain records for your child. Put all your correspondence in the file. Make every IEP request in writing and ask for a written response. Check every so often to see if your correspondences are included.
  9. End your IEP…with a good check up. At the end of the IEP, make sure all of your points have been included. Check up on the promises, goals, and objectives that were agreed upon at the meeting. It is your job to monitor the IEP plan.

Learning Disabilities 101
Mary Cathryn Haller
March 1999 Rainbow Books, Inc. ISBN: 1568250738
Buy now.

A primer - the first book that parents should read when they learn their child is diagnosed as learning disabled (LD). This book helps them understand the basic language and terms, learn how to find and work with the experts and professionals, and it helps parents know their options. Written in easy-to-read "parent" language, Learning Disabilities 101 will help readers understand three things: how to cope with their child's disability, how to work through the maze of laws and medical terms, and how the family fits into their child's LD world.

Exerpted from Learning Disabilities 101