By Jeanne Anne Carriere, director of the Chapman Ability Project, a collaboration between Chapman University’s College of Educational Studies and The Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders
An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) may be a critical part of some kids’ educational programs, including those with autism and other disorders. The IEP meeting is a common, multi-discipline team approach for sharing information and decision-making.
Unfortunately, for many families, the IEP process can sometimes be emotionally overwhelming and confusing. For IEP collaboration to be successful, parents need to feel like valued, respected, and equal members of the team. One way for parents of children with autism and other disorders to become more engaged in this process, is to understand the Who, What, How and Why of their child’s IEP meeting.
Ask who will be at the meeting. The meeting usually consists of a parent, general education teacher, special education teacher, and an administrator, unless you have given permission for them to be absent. If assessments were conducted, someone who can explain the assessments should be present, such as the school psychologist. Your child’s service provider/s should also be present, such as the speech and language therapist or occupational therapist. Make sure the participants you would like to be at the meeting have been invited and confirm their attendance before the meeting.
Clarify the purpose of the meeting. What information will be presented or reviewed? If evaluations were conducted, ask for reports in advance of the meeting. This will give you time to read the reports and ask questions if needed. Understanding the evaluation results before the meeting can reduce some of the emotional intensity of the IEP meeting.
Request a meeting agenda so all members will know how the meeting will proceed. Plan, review, and agree upon an agenda as the first step in the meeting. This will help the team make good use of time and remain focused on the purpose of the meeting: to create a good educational program for your child.
Ask questions to understand why certain goals, services or placement have been recommended. Do you see the link between your child’s strengths and needs and the goals that have been written? Do you think your child will achieve his goals with this level of service? If not, share your suggestions with the team. Ask for other team members’ opinions and for them to share the information they used to make their recommendations. Feel free to re-ask for clarification if you did not understand an answer or the plan moving forward.