Preparing for an IEP can be a stressful time for a parent. Here are some key questions parents ask about preparing for their child’s IEP.
Can I trust the school blindly for the IEP?
Suppose you have an IEP coming up soon. Should you do anything to prepare? You’ve got progress reports and IEP copies around here somewhere….But geez — the school knows what they’re doing, right? I can just trust them to make sure my kid gets what they need. I’m just there to sign on the dotted line, right?
🛑 No !!
Why should a parent take an active role in an IEP?
Everything is fine with the IEP… until it isn’t. 🤯
Maybe you will be one of those lucky folks who never has a problem come up in an IEP meeting. I really hope that’s the case. However, most of us aren’t that lucky. You are much more than a signature. You are a member of this IEP team. You never know when you might find yourself having to make a case for a goal or an accommodation you think your child needs, but the school doesn’t agree.
🍩 I once brought donuts to an IEP meeting, hoping that it would foster a sense of camaraderie. We’re all in this together! We’re all working toward the same goal! Yeah, that didn’t work. I got the rug pulled out from under me during that meeting. 😤
How to organize your child’s IEP?
My system is the binder system. Here’s what you need and how to put it all together. Get a really big D-ring binder — one that holds at least 2 inches (bigger, if you can find one), a big pack of top-loading page protectors, sticky notes with some sticky flags, pens, highlighters and a couple packs of tabbed dividers. In your binder, have a section for the current IEP and separate that document out page by page, so you can quickly see each page in a meeting.
If there’s a point you want to make sure you cover in a meeting, highlight it on the document, write your question or comment on a sticky note, and put a sticky flag on that page. I would have another tabbed section for the previous IEP, and make another tab for the current ETR (Evaluation Team Report) — again, separating that document out page by page so you can see it all quickly. After that, I have additional tabbed sections in my binder, which are noted below. You can add whatever tabs you feel you need to your binder.
- IEP Meeting Notes
- Parent Invitations
- Prior Written Notices
- Progress Reports/Report Cards
- E-Mail Communications/Doctor’s Notes
- Research for Goals/Accommodations
- Current Procedural Safeguards from your State Board of Education
Then, you either start filing all your papers, or you start printing off all your papers so that you can file them. Bring that binder with you to all the meetings. Add to it as you need to, and archive things in another binder as you are able. I like to keep my records in several binders, organized like this:
- Elementary School (pre-K – 2nd grade)
- Intermediate School (3rd grade – 6th grade)
- Middle School (7th and 8th grade)
- High School (9-12th grade)
Start organizing IEP documentation as early as possible
By the time your child graduates, you’ll have a multi-volume set of their school records if you start keeping records from the very beginning. However, it is never too late to start. If you don’t have a big IEP problem until high school, maybe that’s where you start. Whenever you start, you will have a big book of back-up information at your disposal. This is beneficial because if you are trying to prove that your child needs a specific goal or accommodation, you will have the ETR, any relevant e-mails that may help make your case, progress reports and grades – everything you may need right there in one place.
Use the binder to prepare before every IEP meeting
Look through your binder before meetings to see what you’d like to address at an IEP meeting. Look through your binder after meetings to see what research you have (or what you need to add) and what past communications or results you have to back up a request you made. I would also recommend keeping a back-up copy of your binder — perhaps in electronic form on your computer.
Organizing yourself for an IEP is a sign of how much you care 💛
Having an organized system of retrieving information is not a sign that you are looking for a fight. Instead, it’s a sign that you care enough to be informed about how your child is doing, and that you are ready to help your child receive the appropriate education they deserve.
Hope this information is useful to you. If you to speak with me further or get more information on IEPs and School Advocacy, come join my IEP group. You can find it in my Storefront Plan A2Z on Vitalxchange.