The IEP Meeting: Let’s Make it a Sense of Relief Instead of a Sense of Pain!

The Chicago Tribune has recently published several stories about concerns that parents have faced when getting help for their children who have special needs.  Currently, the Chicago Public School System spends approximately 850 million dollars a year on special education services. Although a tremendous amount of money is spent on the services, parents are often left believing that they need to hire an outside “translator” (e.g. lawyer, psychologist, or academic specialist) to be able to decipher the information provided.

As Dr. Hull discussed in a prior blog article, the ideal goal of the IEP process is to provide support for the child.  Parents need to feel like the information that the IEP team provides is clear and helps them to understand, manage and strengthen their child’s educational experience. So many times I have heard from parents that they greatly fear and are intimidated about meeting with the school staff.  From my viewpoint, this is absolutely ridiculous.  Let’s move away from fearing the IEP and embracing it for what it is.  

Ideally, the IEP should serve as a source of relief for parents.  This meeting should serve as an opportunity for everyone (school staff, parents, outside professionals) to meet together and decide what the child needs in order to demonstrate learning at his or her maximum ability level.  I would like to hear from professionals and parents about their thoughts of the IEP process. 

What are your thoughts going in? 

Are you excited, nervous, afraid, mad? 

How happy have you been with the meetings that you have gone to? 

What changes would you like to see?

6 replies
  1. Deborah
    Deborah says:

    So many times therapists go in and are very condescending and bossy with the school. The best thing to do is listen, reflect, be realistic, know the laws, know the child, do a school visit beforehand, and partner with the school. When the school is just plain wrong, and are not being team players, then you professionally go into defend and protect mode because we know it is all about the child getting what he deserves for ultimate learning potential.

  2. Greg Stasi
    Greg Stasi says:

    Great points Deborah. One thing that I frequently observe when dealing with schools is the comment you made about outside therapists being “bossy” towards the school staff. Therapists need to realize that although therecommendations and accommodations that they are advocating for are spot on; the school does not have to use them. The law requires schools to examine the results of outside evaluations but not necessarily use the recommendations they offer. The outside therapists need to identify this and work with the school staff to ensure that the accommodations they are advoacting for are being applied.

  3. Brooke Einhorn
    Brooke Einhorn says:

    Another good point to mention during IEP meetings (especially this time of year) is looking ahead. Often times, teachers and school staff are looking at the progress that the student has made thus far without looking ahead at the possible obstacles that may occur next year. For example, if your 6th grader has executive functioning difficulties he/she may have difficulties writing the major language arts paper that most schools require during 7th grade. Although, the school staff may say that he/she has made significant progress in this area, it is important to discuss and address these issues before adding or taking out any modifications that were already in the IEP. On many IEP’s, students have have the accommodation of “allowing that student extra time on tests/papers”. School staff may suggest taking this out because the child isn’t using the extra time. This is an important time to look ahead and determine if it “may be necessary” the following year. In 7th grade, students are required to take the constitution test.Since the constitution test brings on extreme anxiety, many children may indeed use and benefit from having extra time on these stressful requirements; regardless if they used this accommodation in the past or not. It is important to do you research before going into any meeting. If possible, do a school visit prior to the meeting. Don’t be afraid to ask questions regarding their current progress and obstacles. Asking about what “big” projects the child is expected to complete the following year is completely acceptable too!

  4. maureen evans
    maureen evans says:

    Middle school can be a game changer for many students! Kids in that age group are reluctant to advocate for themselves just when they need to develop and use that very skill! They can feel embarassed to ask for extended time on testing! The reality is, their IEP can really help improve performance and they need to be encouraged to know what their individual situation is and to really use the accommodations! By the time high school rolls around they will be grateful for the extra time to finish a test!! If they are lucky enough to bring their accommodations with them to college, they will be the envy of all! Portable accommodations rock! Knowledge is power, and if kids can advocate for themselves, they will use that skill in other areas of their lives!

  5. Brooke Einhorn
    Brooke Einhorn says:

    Thank you College Scholarships! Keep checking this site to see what new topics will be discussed!


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