If you managed to survive your child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting unscathed you deserve a MAJOR AWARD. Even if you walked out of that room full of teachers, therapists, and school administrators wanting to hurl, there’s hope.
IEPs are fluid. This is not an end game. Your Child’s IEP “is not a form” according to Supreme Court Justice Chief John Roberts.
Other than your child, you are the most important person on your child’s IEP team. That’s because you know your child best. Likely, you’ve become an expert on your child’s strengths and weaknesses.
If you’re reading this, I know you’ve spent countless hours scouring the Internet for expert advice on inclusion and educational best practices.
Still, an IEP meeting can often feel like an episode of David and Goliath. You playing the part of David.
So, now is the time to get organized. Rally the troops, because this year’s IEP meeting is going to be EPIC!
Here’s 4 steps to make your child’s IEP meeting run as smoothly as possible:
- Never go alone to an IEP meeting!
- An IEP team meeting can include countless school personnel, often with their own agenda.
- If you can afford it, find an non-attorney special education advocate in your area by searching the Council of Attorney and Advocates directory here. A good advocate can cost you anywhere from $200-$1000, but it may be worth your weight in gold to have someone in your corner who knows the law.
- If you can’t afford an advocate, invite an friend, pastor, neighbor….anyone who is less emotionally invested than you are and who can take good notes.
Organize all those documents CHRONOLOGICALLY!
- As a former teacher, I realize failure to document can come back to bite you in the “you know what.” Keep all of your child’s records – from evaluations to letters home to IEPs to that adorable little Mother’s Day painting he made you this year. But how?
- First, go out and buy the BIGGEST 3-ring binder you can find.
- Display the most INNOCENT picture you can find of your little rugrat on the front, and have a bio of how amazing he is on the inside cover. Click here to learn how to make a bio like my son’s. Bring this with you to EVERY IEP meeting (make sure you hold the folder picture-side out–for all to see)
- MOST IMPORTANT: Organize your documents chronologically! I’ve tried creating categories for my son’s IEP folder, but I soon realized the categories are ENDLESS (IEP, ETR, Behavior, Communications, Resources, etc). Also, some of the documents could really be under more than one category (which category do you choose then?).
- My best advice, create a table of contents with the following: date, author, type, significance. Number each document and place them in order of date. Then you can quickly look back at your table of contents to find your child’s “1st grade ETR”.
Save all communications!
- Communication is EVERYTHING! Save it all: emails, letters home (see step 1), even text messages.
- At the end of each email I send to school personnel I always write: “please add this to Troy’s educational record.” Emails can often get lost in the ether, but they can be very powerful if you need to make a case for a change in your child’s IEP later. Make sure you make them a part of your child’s official record.
- The easiest way to save emails if you don’t have a physical copy and don’t want to print it out, is through email files. Most emails (I use Gmail) allow you to create folders.
- I have a folder for Troy in my email, and even have sub-folders (for behavior, IEP, and therapies).
- Any time I get an email I save it in the appropriate folder. I even email text messages to my email to save.
- This is especially important if, for instance, you keep getting an email about your child’s behavior. Keeping a paper trail (or in this case, an email trail) will be crucial for getting your child the help they need. Most schools require evidence of a continued problem before they’ll shell out money for say a formal behavior assessment.
Save all resources in LiveBinders!
- I learned about LiveBinders from a dear friend who is a professor of bicultural-bilingual studies (so you can use this for non-IEP topics too). If you love reading up on expert advice about Down syndrome, inclusion, special needs law, anything really…then you will be SIMPLY AMAZED by LiveBinder!
- It’s an online, find-it-whenever-and-wherever-you-need-it organizational masterpiece. My “binders” include: inclusion and law resources, letters to school, modifications to curriculum, literacy, APPs, Introducing Troy to classmates
- Whenever I find something spectacular on the Internet, I copy the URL and paste it into the appropriate “binder.” Then whenever I have an issue with a particular topic, I can go back to my binder and find resources.
- You can have up to 6 FREE binders before LiveBinder starts charging you. Check it out!