Sign up for
Say NO to Labels
NO Generic Services
Say YES to
Individualized Education Program (IEP)
Tips for getting what your child needs
Prepare for meetings - AVOID
- Find out who will be attending
- Make sure key people are attending.
- regular, and special education teachers, therapist, etc.
- Ask for a person trained on inclusion and adaptations to
facilitate the meeting.
- It is legally required that parents receive a written
invitation to IEP meeting
- Meetings should be held at mutually convenient
(a/k/a mutually inconvenient) times.
- Ask exactly what the meeting will cover
- "Get to know you" meetings can end up being evaluations and
- Talk to individual staff about what will be covered in
- Make sure enough time is allotted
- Be sure there are start and finish times, and that key
people will be attend entire time.
- Some IEP's are broken up into several shorter
- For a child with significant needs, planning can take
16 hours or longer
- Total time should not be limited, keep
rescheduling if not finished in the session's time limits
- Get copies of reports or evaluations that will be
discussed, prior to the meeting
- Nothing can throw off your ability to think clearly
then having people over analyze your child.
- Many professional's have not shifted to using strength
- Listening to reports that describe what is wrong with
your child, what he or she can't do, and how that compares
to others can be very emotionally overwhelming.
- Plan to make the meeting festive, bring food, color and
- Your not planning a funeral, your planning for your child's
success, make it fun!
- Prepare a vision statement for your child's future
- Refer to the vision during all of your planning
- Write a draft version of the IEP
- Plan on collaborating with the team
- Include family, friends and others who know your child
to help you prepare
- Write priorities
- Decide what services, or supports etc. you feel you
must get for your child
- Decide which areas you may be willing to compromise if
- Organize copies of laws, information and resources that
address your child's needs
- Include State and Federal laws covering special
- Have copies of interpretations of the laws
- Example in Pennsylvania - BEC's or Basic Education
- Bring resources and information on assistive technology that
may help your child succeed
- Provide information on inclusion, adaptations and trainings
- Phone numbers for support or clarification
- Education Law Center, Consult Line, advocates,
Protection & Advocacy etc.
At IEP meetings
Written by Colleen F. Tomko, copyright 1998
This material may be copied for non-profit use only. (May
be linked but not copied on to other websites)
- Never go to a meeting alone!
- Take an advocate, an informed parent, family member,
friend or neighbor
- Sometimes meetings can end up emotional, unclear or
even out of compliance, Its good to have others on your side to
help listen, clarify and support you
- If possible spouses should always attend together
- The child should always attend when appropriate
- Reschedule if the key people are not present or there
are other surprises
- Let everyone know you asked ahead of time for this
- To be productive you need the right people and
information to plan
- Simply pick up your things and tell them to reschedule
when it can be done right
- Begin IEP meetings by reading your child's vision
- Hand out copies of your vision, if possible
include a photo
- This helps everyone get on the same page
- Goals need to be based on achieving this vision, not
deficits nor life skills.
- Have the facilitator write notes on large flip chart
- This way everything discussed is clear and visible to
- Begin with one sheet for each area
- ex: reading, math, social, self-help, behavioral.
- Draw a vertical line and begin by listing strengths on
- Needs and goals can be listed on the right, use as many
sheets as needed.
- Be clear in describing what you want and why
- You can expect more collaboration when others understand
what it is you are asking of them and why.
- Don't just describe a service or device, tell how it will
help your child learn and progress
- Give a clear visual picture of what you think a situation
will look like with your child having this.
- Be a good listener
- Allow others to finish what they are saying, even if
- Repeat back a summary of what they said to avoid
- Once they agree that you understand them, then go
ahead and state your views.
- Get issues out in the open
- Don't play mind games, get anything and everything
that concerns you out on the table.
- Most people can't read minds, be upfront, confront the
issues and be proactive.
- If you think that a teacher or school doesn't want
your child in the regular class, tell the team this.
- You'll be surprised how much relief you'll feel by
getting the issues out.
- Begin your statements with 'I feel", "I think" etc. to
help open up lines of communication.
- Avoid arguing over issues that are not leading to
planning your child's success
- Don't get drawn into other issues such as funding,
training , etc. first write an appropriate IEP
- Jot a note to place in front of you at the meeting,
"Does this topic lead toward my child's success.
- Glance at this note throughout the meeting and if
you find a topic isn't appropriate interrupt and ask to get
back to planning for your individual child's success.
- Take a break
- If information is overwhelming, emotional or confusing
take a ten minute break.
- Use this time to reorganize, refresh, energize, make
collaborate with others helping you attend the meeting.
- Decide if you can go on, or need to reschedule.
- Insist on positive language used to describe your child
- Parents are team members and have a right to suggest
- Reports need to state what your child "can do" and then
what is expected
- IEP's are for individuals, comparative information to
others is not needed.
- For evaluations have the language rephrased
positively, or file a dissenting opinion.
- Every service and support needed for your child must be
written in the IEP
- IEP's are legally binding contracts. If its not in
there they don't have to provide it.
- If told something doesn't have to be in writing,
explain, you are protecting your child's rights.
- IEP's must be implemented in reasonable time,
usually considered 10 days, including providing assistive
technology that is listed
- You could allow flexibility to show that you are
willing to work with the team, but don't get taken advantaged
- Have periodic planning meetings written into the IEP
- Plan on the front line staff, those working directly
with your child, to meet regularly.
- Start out with weekly meetings and if all is going
well move to bi-weekly, then monthly.
- Behavior plans must be a part of the IEP
- If a child's behavior interferes with his or her
learning, a behavior plan is required
- Have training and supports for staff included in the
- Review the IEP before accepting it
- Be sure the goals are realistic, achievable,
objective, measurable and academic in nature.
- Make sure all areas are addressed, including extended
school year, transition and supports.
- Check that if assistive technology needed there is full
time access and it is written into the goals.
- The system never determines your child's program
- What your child needs is not determined by what is
available, its based only on your child.
- You don't have to accept statements like, we don't
have the funding, training, or staff for that.
- Special education is a service, not a place. Services
follow the child.
- It doesn't matter what is being done for any other
child, you are only planning for you own.
- If the team will not write down something your child
needs, you must be given a Notice of Recommended Education
- Get it in writing, who is responsible for implementing
- Who is going to coordinate all team members in
addressing your child's goals?
- Who will be making adaptations and modifications,
scheduling trainings, ordering devices?
- Who will be looking at daily class activities and
determining what it will look like for your child?
- Before people leave schedule any necessary follow-up
- When all goes well, (It can happen!) give
positive reinforcement to team members
- Thank everyone for attending, and working toward your
Please notify us of
This is still a rough draft, and will be updated with more ideas.
"If" you tried your best to collaborate,
listen and explain, point out the laws and specify what your child needs
and "why", and you can not agree as a team, then you need to take
further action. There are several things you can do. All parents are
required by law to receive a copy of their rights that explains the due
process procedures. It should also provide contact information for local
agencies and organizations that can provide information and support. Let
the team know "You want nothing more then to work together toward your
child's success, and it is nothing personal, but you will need to take
further steps to ensure that he or she receives an appropriate
education." After you have tried your best, choose your battles, but are
still not able to get your child's needs met, then you should file a
complaint with the state and takes steps to due process. Many parents
feel that although this sometimes rectifies the situation and definitely
needs to be done to document the issues, it is not always enough.
Another suggested step is to write out your child's story, include a
photo at the top of a cover letter summarizing the issues. Submit and
carbon copy this letter to every local, state and federal offices of
education and special education (This includes principals,
superintendents, etc); your state and US legislators (committees on
education); your state's
governor's and policy office; your state's departments that provide
disability services (such as Offices of MH/MR or Developmental
Disabilities); The President's committee on disabilities; local, state
and national organization's of the ARC, UCP, TASH; ACLU, your state's
Protection and Advocacy organization, other disability law centers that
exist in your state and The Office of Civil Rights (OCR requires
complaints on official complaint forms).
Get started here!
If a school employee has been malicious
or negligent then you must also file a misconduct complaint with the
state, this is separate from IEP issues and directed toward the
inappropriate behavior of an individual and will initiate an
investigation of that person.Written by Colleen F. Tomko
Material Copyrighted 1996 Kids Together, Inc.
This material may be copied for non-profit use only. (May be linked but
not copied on to other websites)
Please notify us of
to Information and Resources about IEP's
Help for Families and Advocates
Call the ConsultLine
Pennsylvania Department of Education Bureau of Special
(Regulations & Complaint system)
Help us enrich this site.
please submit information to