Preparing for a meeting with your child’s teachers about his/her Individualized Education Plan (IEP)

You walk into a room full of educators to talk about your child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Do you feel nervous, scared or unprepared? Please don’t! No one knows your child better than you. I encourage you to walk in that room with confidence and tell your child’s story – you’ve got this! As you prepare, here are some things to keep in mind before, during and after your child’s IEP meeting.

Take some time prior to the meeting to think about where your child currently is. What progress have they made? What are your concerns? Depending on your child’s age, asking them these questions, in a way they can understand, can prove to be very enlightening and helpful in the planning. Time goes by fast and planning backwards can be one of the most successful tools in preparing students for life after school. Where do you see your child in one year, five years or 10 years? If you have information you would like your child’s school to consider in developing the IEP, share it with them ahead of time or bring a copy to the meeting. When you schedule this meeting, make sure it is a time that you can be fully present, with few distractions. Write down questions ahead of time that you may want to ask. You may also want to consider bringing along a family member or friend – sometimes having someone else there to listen is great support.

You are a valued and critical team member in drafting your child’s IEP. You will be asked to help shape a picture of your child’s strengths, interests and preferences in regards to learning. You may consider things such as: What do you see at home? Does your child prefer to work with others or independently? What kind of books do they like to read or have read to them? During the meeting, the IEP team will suggest goals, services and avenues of support to best assist your child in learning. If something doesn’t make sense to you or you disagree with something that has been said, speak up and ask questions. Educators, like many professions, have a language all their own. If someone uses an acronym or term that you are unfamiliar with, ask them to explain that further. Finally, ask the team how you can assist your child at home. When everyone is working together, for the same cause, amazing things happen.

One of my favorite sayings is, “clear is kind.” When everyone is clear about who is doing what, when they are doing it and how success looks, they are better able to support successful outcomes. Following the meeting, you will be provided with what is known as a Prior Written Notice. This notice will inform you what the school is proposing, why they are proposing it, other options that were considered and when this action will take place. The kindest thing you can do is make sure your understanding is crystal clear. If you have questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to the school and ask for clarification. If you ever need further support, our Central Rivers Area Education Agency (AEA) staff is always willing and able to support IEP teams, schools, parents and children. As a parent with a child with a disability, you have rights afforded to you on your child’s behalf. The school team will have provided you a copy of your procedural safeguards. If you have any questions, you can ask any member of the IEP team or an AEA representative. Additionally, each AEA has a Family Educator Partnership (FEP) team whose members can provide additional supports and resources to parents.

Sharing your child’s story through your contribution to the IEP team can make a big impact on their education today and in the future. In summary, come prepared, participate as a team member and be clear about the outcome of the meeting. Educators need and want your contribution!

Amy Starr headshotAmy Starr is a Regional Administrator with Central Rivers Area Education Agency (AEA), based out of Marshalltown. She can be reached at Central Rivers AEA provides special education and school improvement services to 53 public and nearly 20 non-public school districts across 18 counties of Iowa. Learn more at