Don’t you just dread IEP meetings, yet we beg to have them, at the start of the meeting all the group seem so serious and it can be daunting looking around the table at all these professionals? Yet you have to stay confident and look as if you’re prepared!

I’ve often walked into meetings after rushing to get the children to school, barely having time for a shower, looking stressed and have forgotten a pen! I enter the meeting to see maybe 6 relaxed people, looking professionally equipped with notes, reports and pens!

I have attended so many and lost count of the times I came out upset. But as David got older and I naturally got a lot more experienced. I now find these meeting very productive and I look forward to achieving some outcomes for David through the IEP meetings.

Remember you are the main expert on your child.

I have a few tips for our parents to make these meetings as successful as possible. Hopefully without the stress.

First of all:

  • Why do you want this meeting?
  • Who do you want there?
  • What do you want out of the meeting to help your child?

Remember, this may be the only meeting you will have made available to you in a year, so, make the most of it.

  1. 1. Set up the meeting well in advance. Don’t go running into the school on the first few days that everyone is back, all the staff are under lots of pressure at that time, either leave it for a week to 10 days.
  2. 2. You are the manager of the meeting so it’s up to you to liaise with the school, therapists and anyone else you would like to attend the meeting. This is your responsibility.
  3. Make a decision on whether or not you want your child to attend. I personally didn’t have David at the meeting till he was over 14. However, I would always sit down with him before the meeting and listen to what it was he wanted.
  4. Arrange lunch with your child after the meeting. This is great to recap on the meeting and explain specific issues. Doing this will keep everything fresh in your mind. I would be looking for your child’s reactions positive or negative and trying to judge if it really was going to help. Personally, most of the time, I tried to plan the meeting after the small break and brought David for lunch afterwards and tell him again how proud I am of him.
  5. Plan, plan, plan. What is your plan for your child in the next 6/12 months? Ask your child does he have any difficulty’s, from getting to the bathroom, lunchtime, study, friends, anything? What would you like to achieve for him/her (realistically)? What is working? What are you happy about? How can your child move forward? What suggestions do the teachers/therapist have that you can take on board at home that will work to assist your child in learning?
  6. Organisation. Have all your letters, school report, doctor’s report to hand and have copies made for everyone who attends.
  7. Make sure you have lots of time, allow at least 30 minutes prior to the meeting to go over all your own questions again and 40 minutes after the meeting to allow plenty of time so you do not have to rush to another appointment. You should be last to leave the meeting, making sure everyone has been asked if there is anything else they would like to discuss.
  8. Ask the group. What else should you be doing in their expert opinion to help your child achieve a milestone and if you can’t help in this area ask them who should support you? But you do have to continue this work at home and explain to the family if changes need to be made (it is a full-time job) and acknowledge this.
  9. Try not to focus on your child’s dis-abilities and more on his/her abilities and work with these. Work with what you have. (Not the opposite).
  10. Try and keep personalities out of the meeting, it really doesn’t matter if you like a teacher or not, what does matter is their ability to help your child achieve their goal and work together.
  11. 11. Be patient. Try and stay calm and focused. Before you leave have everyone’s email address, phone no. etc. Check what each of the members has to do in the next 6 weeks to help your child. i.e. Maybe someone has recommended an App or an item that will help your child. Follow up on this.
  12. Be thankful and grateful to everyone who attends. Thank them for being part of your child’s life and that their input will be part of shaping his/her future.

Remember, Every Childhood, Lasts a Lifetime.