Here is a list of top tips presented by advocates, consultants and parents in response to the question: If you could give only one IEP tip to parents, what would it be?
I grouped the tips into a few very important key tips. I am presenting them in a condensed format along with a few examples under each. These were great tips and I will likely be writing an article expanding on these, since I believe many parents, consultants and advocates will benefit from reading these tips.
I did add a few of my own points and found a lot of agreement among the submissions. Looks like we are thinking much alike and I think that is good!
Finally, I would have liked to have made them all positive statements, some DO NOT’s needed to be emphasized.
1. There is a great deal of bad advice posted on the internet. Check with the language of the federal education laws before repeating what you read to be certain that you are being presented with the law and not opinion. You do not want to enter an IEP meeting presenting opinion when you thought it was the law.
2. Prepare for the meeting. This ranged from knowing the law(s), but also to review all materials that will be discussed at the IEP meeting, making sure you have a copy from the school of all assessments and reports that will be discussed PRIOR to the meeting. You may ask for a copy of the IEP prior to the meeting, but it is not required by federal law that the school to comply with that request but your state may requires it When in doubt, consider checking with your state’s Parent Information Center, or an advocate/consultant who knows and can show you the federal/state laws/regulations.
3. Ask questions. You are not expected to know everything, but it is your responsibility and duty to ask for clarification so that you can make informed decisions.
4. Good manners go a long way. Keep the focus on your child’s needs. Bring cookies. But of all things, keep your emotions in check. Ask for a break if you feel the urge to say something you will regret.
5. Bring someone with you—if you have ANY level of discomfort. You may ask friends, or even neighbors, to accompany you and take notes for you while you focus on the meeting discussions. Have them discreetly signal you if they think YOU need a break. A second “ear” can be quite valuable. A decision when to bring an advocate/consultant/attorney is subjective, but sometimes is necessary. Schools are less apprehensive with a friend joining over an advocate, consultant and attorney and depends on the stated roles of each and their skills with collaboration.
6. Get everything in writing. Special education is law and if not in writing, it will be presumed to not exist. Keep and file everything until your child exits school. Memories fade!
7. Sign nothing until you have had a chance to process the meeting and review the documents. Review the materials presented a day or two after the meeting when you will be looking at it from a fresh perspective. There is nothing wrong with asking for time to do this. You are not required to sign anything at a meeting. You are obligated as a caretaker to reflect on what you are asked to sign. IDEA allows you to agree to some parts of the IEP and not others. Take the time to think it through, but do it in a reasonable time—3 or 4 days—not weeks later.
8. Do not take the approach that you are going to negotiate your child’s services. If your child’s needs are identified, appropriate goals and services need to be provided. You are not to negotiate away any needs/services in order to to receive others–if they are required to meet your child’s needs, why give up any?
9. Do not demand service you want. Be certain they are needed. There is a difference between what you might want and what your child needs. You, like school staff, are required to have needs-based services provided in the IEP, not wishes or desires unrelated to your child’s needs.
10. Do not make threats unless you are willing to carry through on them. Think twice or thrice before threatening anything. Take that break mentioned earlier. Cooler heads DO prevail. It is much harder to take back what is once said than to not say it at all.