Your IEP Action Plan:
16 Strategies for Surviving Your Next IEP Meeting
by Joan Celebi, Ed.M., CLC
Who doesn't get nervous before an IEP meeting? Even under the best of circumstances, IEP meetings can cause anxiety and worry.
1. Long before your IEP meeting, ask yourself: do I need help with this? Consider asking for help from a friend who's been through the IEP process, or think about hiring a special ed advocate.
2. In the months and weeks before your meeting, make sure your records and documents are all in order. I recommend "My IEP Toolkit" at organized4kids.com. It makes your IEP record-keeping effortless.
3. Keep a running list of all your questions and anything you want to discuss at the meeting. Put it in your binder.
4. About a month in advance, check in with all the teachers and professionals who work with your child. Find out what concerns they may have. You may be surprised to find out something you weren't aware of.
5. Three or four weeks before your meeting, start writing your Parent Statement. You will want plenty of time to re-read it and revise it before the big day.
6. A few days in advance, make sure you've got groceries in the house, and enough laundry done. Do anything ahead that will make the morning of your IEP meeting go smoothly.
7. Decide in advance what you want waiting for you when you get home that day. Have your favorite CD ready to play, a favorite food prepared, a set of comfy clothes to change into ... you get the idea!
8. Also in advance, block off a little bit of down time right after the meeting just for you. The rest of your day will go much more smoothly.
9. Plan ahead to do something fun, relaxing, or rejuvenating within a day or two of the meeting. You'll have something to look forward to - and an antidote to that drained, overwhelmed feeling that can happen with IEP meetings.
10. Block off some time during the days following the meeting for follow up phone calls, emails, and research.
11. Eat a good dinner and go to bed early the night before, and eat a good breakfast the morning of the meeting.
12. In the hours before the meeting, take several "time outs" to close your eyes and breathe deeply.
13. Bring water to the meeting, and sip every few minutes.
14. During the meeting, ask all the questions you want, take all the notes you want, and don't be afraid to ask people to repeat or explain.
15. Immediately after the meeting, look over your notes, fill in any incomplete information, and add anything you know you're going to want to remember. Place the notes in your binder, then put it all away for at least a few hours. Go for a walk, even if it's just for a few minutes.
16. Ideally, make dinner ahead, so you can give yourself a break that evening -- less kitchen work and more time to sit and eat with your children -- and enjoy them just the way they are.