For anyone who has ever had a child struggling with grades or behavior, you may have had experience with what is often called an IEP meeting, or Individualized Education Plan. These occur with children who have learning differences, pervasive developmental disorders, behavioral issues, or any issue that is impeding the child’s ability to learn and perform within the school setting. Some parents experience these meetings as helpful while others experience them as confusing and frustrating. Here is some basic information and suggestions regarding these meetings.
- They happen at least once a year, and possibly more frequently depending on what was recommended during the previous IEP. They often include members of the school, including the teacher, counselor, vice/principal, school psychologist, or other support staff. Parents are always outnumbered, which can lead to feeling confused during the process. Bringing written questions and taking notes during the meeting is a good way to remain clear. Some schools are good about scheduling these meetings on time, while others are not. Therefore, it is good to know how frequently these meetings are occurring for your child so you could request them if need be.
- The school will be presenting what they have done to help your child to learn. They may also have suggestions for how you could help your child while at home. However, this is not only an opportunity to learn about the school’s plans, but also to advocate for the help your child may need. As important as it is to maintain positive relationships with teachers and school staff, it is also important require that your concerns about your child’s learning are being addressed properly. There may be resources to assist with attending IEP meetings, such as mediators or advocates, who work for the child as opposed to the school itself.
- The goal is to determine what your child is capable of, and determining how the school or school district could meet these needs. Many times, a formal evaluation will take place. This could be a cognitive assessment, which will produce an IQ score which will be compared to their achievement. The purpose of this assessment is to attempt to provide data regarding the child’s potential in comparison to how they are performing. In other terms, what are they capable of and how are they actually doing. Regarding these assessments, I recommend requesting copies of them. I also recommend asking that someone goes through this assessment with you, explaining the scores, the conclusions, and the recommendations. It is important to understand these because they often drive the overall recommendations of the IEP.
- If you believe that the school is misunderstanding your child’s ability or not meeting their needs, there are a variety of options for proceeding. I recommend beginning with making attempts to renegotiate with the school. You can request additional meetings, or speak directly with teachers or staff. It can also be useful to have an outside psychologist or school psychologist review the child’s assessment. That person may help to better understand the data, and may also have additional ideas for recommendations. The last resort may be to contact attorneys, some of which work for reduced fees if they believe the child has not been treated properly by the school district.
Teachers meeting image available from Shutterstock.
Last reviewed: 2 Sep 2013
Anonymous. (2013). What Parents Should Know about IEP Meetings. Psych Central.
Retrieved on December 9, 2013, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/resilient-youth/2013/09/what-parents-should-know-about-iep-meetings/