IEP meetings can be emotional and overwhelming, but knowing how to work with the education team effectively is very important. You are a key member of the IEP team with the unique perspective that comes with the long view of your child’s developmental history, dreams, and resources.

Your participation is very important. As the IDEA notes:

“Almost 30 years of research and experience has demonstrated that the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by… strengthening the role and responsibility of parents and ensuring that families … have meaningful opportunities to participate in the education of their children at school and at home.”

The most important thing to remember is that information is power. Contact one of our Texas Parent Training and Information projects so that you can attend a free training on special education and learn what the process should be like.

Here are some other key points:

You are guaranteed the right to participate in the meeting and help develop the IEP, so your concerns matter. Having them in writing can help you remember your key points during the meeting.

School personnel should not come to a meeting with a finalized document, but they may have a draft of some items. The IEP is created based on the student’s unique needs and strengths, and the meeting is the place where all of that is discussed.

Districts are not allowed to set time limits for IEP meetings. If a meeting cannot be completed in the allotted time, then the team can schedule additional time to complete the IEP. Do that before you leave the meeting if possible.

Ask questions to help you understand and clarify what others are saying. Don’t feel pressured to agree to something if you are unsure about it.

Take a break if you get overwhelmed or upset during the meetings. These discussions about your child can be very difficult.

Bring a support person with you—being the only one on “your side of the table” can be hard.

Learn to say “I respectfully disagree” or “Help me understand—can you give me an example?”

Bring a picture of your child, to help everyone remember why you are all there.

Sit next to the note-taker at the meeting. During introductions, make sure you know who the “administrative designee” is—the person authorized to commit district resources such as transportation, technology, training, or specialized curricula.

If a required team member is absent unexpectedly, don’t feel pressured to excuse them in writing. If their presence is important, reschedule the meeting.

If you have specific questions about education and students with disabilities ages 0-26, call your local Parent Training and Information Center (PTI).

From June 2013 Newsletter of CA Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund