How to Navigate IEP meetings

How to Navigate IEP meetings

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Do you ever find yourself dreading an upcoming IEP meeting? Have you ever sat in your car or your office after a meeting and cried with frustration?  Does a meeting, intended to be helpful and meet a child’s needs, cause stress and anxiety for you? How has remote learning impacted IEP meetings? Whether you are a parent or a professional, IEP meetings can be very emotional. 

I’m going to be brutally honest with you, IEP meetings hurt my heart at times. While the intention is to bring everyone to the table, to discuss a child, parents are outnumbered and often overwhelmed.  By nature, it is a lopsided meeting. The school staff speaks the same language, understands the process, and have experienced numerous meetings. It was heartbreaking to see the fear and intimidation in a parent’s eyes. Professionals, enter the meeting with this in mind. Parents, ask for support, extra ears, and assemble your own team of advisors, anything that would be helpful for you.

5 tips for Navigating IEP meetings

1. Prepare for the meeting ahead of time. Make sure you understand the purpose of the meeting, which is to review, revise, and update the child’s IEP. Consider the child’s needs, and what goals, services, and supports can be provided. Ask for a copy of the current IEP so you can review it before the meeting and follow along during the meeting. Invite guests as well as advocates. Prepare your questions ahead of time. Take time to relax and reflect on the child. While meetings can be difficult, they are also a time to celebrate the accomplishments of a child.

2. Keep an open mind. Everyone attending the meeting wants what is best for the child. If an issue or solution is suggested that you aren’t sure of, hear that person out. People have different perspectives, training, and experiences.  By working together, a plan can be written that best meets the needs of the child.

3. Ask questions. Parents if you don’t understand a term, a goal, or a service that will be provided, ask. Professionals, if you want to better understand the child, just ask.  There’s no better way for a parent to see how much you care. We often tell children there is no silly question, the same can be said for an IEP meeting.

4. If your gut is telling you this is what you need to do and this is what you need to say, follow your instincts. With age, I have become better about trusting my intuition. Scientists can offer a fascinating explanation of how our gut bacteria influence our minds and where this idiom originated (which is the subject of an entirely different blog post). Professionals, you have a unique perspective and ability to educate those at the table, take advantage of the opportunity.  Parents, you are often the voice of your child in these meetings and he or she deserves to be heard. To learn more about advocating for your child, read our previous blog post here.

5. After the meeting, take the time to connect with the child and yourself. Share with him or her how the meeting went. Embrace the opportunity to share all the positive things that were said in the meeting. And whether you attended the meeting as a parent or a professional, take the time to honor your need for self-care afterward. 

Whether meetings are being held in person or online this year, navigating the process before, during, or after can be difficult and exhausting. We are here to help you. These guidelines can be helpful in creating a plan that benefits everyone but most importantly, the child.

If I can assist you on this IEP path in any way, please reach out. You can set up a parent coaching consultation here.

Be well,

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Jeanine Long is a Mad to GladTM certified parent coach and psychotherapist at Samantha Moe and Associates.  Her heart is highly tuned to families’ emotional needs and she uses her yoga background to compassionately lead everyone to a calmer place.  She loves spending time with her three amazing nieces and nephew in Wichita, Kansas -- time outdoors -- or with her nose in a book. Find out more about Jeanine’s work at www.samanthamoe.com.

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