IEP Meeting Is More than a Parent-Teacher Conference

Question: The school just finished testing my son and discovered that he has a learning disability. I have been asked to attend an IEP meeting. What is IEP, and what is going to happen at this meeting? - Confused.

Answer: Because your child has been identified as learning disabled, both state and federal laws require the development of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). It is a written agreement between you and the school about the education program your child should have in order to meet his special needs. At the IEP meeting, everyone is going to be working together to come up with a plan that will make sure your child gets the right assistance.

The IEP meeting will be different from a parent-teacher conference. It will be much longer and will not just be you and a classroom teacher. Expect the other key players at the meeting to be:

  • A school administrator with responsibility for special education.
  • A specialist, such as a school psychologist.
  • The teacher of record (the individual who will make sure that the plan is implemented).
  • Anyone else you or the school wants to attend, such as your child's physician or someone who has special expertise or knowledge about your child that would help in the development of the IEP.

Be sure to obtain an IEP form from the school district in order to familiarize yourself with what will occur at the meeting. A typical form requires filling in the following information:

  • A statement about your child's unique characteristics or needs.
  • Annual learning goals and short-term objectives.
  • Supportive services or modifications required to help your child.
  • The beginning date and duration of the services that are to be provided.

Before the meeting, you should make a list of things you want your child to learn. You should also take notes on some of the behaviors that might be interfering with your son's learning. Be sure to take to the meeting any other helpful information you might have, such as medical records.

At the meeting, don't let the other team members rush or push you into making decisions. You have the right to ask to take a break, or, if you need more time to think about a particular issue on the plan, to reschedule another meeting at a later date.

Remember that the plan is actually being written by someone from the school district during the IEP meeting, so you should frequently ask to see what has been written to make sure that it accurately depicts what has been discussed. At the conclusion of the IEP meeting, the school administrator will ask you to sign the document. You don't have to sign on the spot. You might want to take the IEP home with you and return it later. This will give you time to think about any issues that you might have with the plan and even to consult with an expert.