Active Participation in IEP

The IEP is a legal document providing for benefits of special education services to students with disabilities based on and followed by comprehensive assessments in various areas of children's developments.

The IEP is renewed every three years from the initial year the child's special education needs are determined. Every year, the IEP is open to set up new educational goals for the upcoming school year based on the educational achievements of the previous year. The IEP is an opportunity for parents to set up proper educational goals, to include proper related services, and to request services necessary for the special needs child. Therefore, parents must prepare in advance of the team meeting and actively participate.

Preparation before meeting

  • Confirm participants (e.g., general education teacher, special education teacher, therapist, psychologist)
  • If needed, consider a request for an interpreter or invite a helper to assist with the parents' requests.
  • By law parents must receive an invitation to the IEP meeting. The IEP must be at a time when both parents and teachers are available. Therefore, parents do not need to meet on a date when it is only convenient for the school staff.
    • Make sure that the IEP schedule includes enough time to cover the necessary agenda items.o In case of severe disability, the IEP process can take 16 hours, different professionals can be invited at different times, or the process can be divided among different dates.
  • Request to receive any documents, reports, and assessment results in advance.
  • Prepare snacks and drinks to make the meeting more pleasant and positive.
  • Prepare a larger vision for your child's future.
  • Write down important IEP goals and prioritize them.
  • Prepare documents, evidence, and research results related to educational needs, necessary services and treatments, and educational goals.

During the meeting

  • Invite family members, relatives, friends, or mentors from parent support groups instead of attending alone.
  • If primary participants are unable to attend, or unexpected topics occur during the primary discussion, let other the IEP team members know what you prepared to discuss, and acquire information from attending the IEP team members. If you cannot understand the unexpected agenda items or need time to consider or contemplate, stop the IEP meeting and set another IEP date to continue the discussion.
  • Start the meeting with a prepared written vision for your special needs child.
  • Request to note and summarize the content of the discussion on black board or chart.
    • This recording of the discussion will help parents as well as all participants clearly summarize the content of discussion.
    • Ask to draw a line or make a chart per category to document each area separately. (Ex. Reading, social, independence, behavior, occupational training)
  • When requesting a service, state the reason how the service will improve the child's educational achievements.
    • Explaining the necessity of a service or assistive tools will provide an opportunity for IEP team members to envision how the service or assistive tools will function and understand the necessity.
  • Listen positively.
    • Even if you disagree, wait and listen until the other team members finish presenting.
    • If necessary, summarize the other members' comments to clarify the communication.
    • After understanding other team members' opinions, deliver the parents' opinion clearly.
  • Address all problems openly and point them out one by one.
    • The matters you might think, "Other team members would take care of it," or "Can I address this?" should be openly addressed and discussed.
    • For example, if you feel that the general education teacher seems to prefer not having your child in her or his class, express your feelings about that situation. Once you have expressed this concern, you might feel relieved and be able to participate positively. However, these topics can be heard as aggressive and critical, so start the discussion with "I feel...." to give a sense that it is a more subjective and personal feeling than objective and factual.
  • Arguments not helpful for a successful IEP
    • Set up proper IEP goals first and then discuss details such as budget or training methods.
    • Write notes during the IEP? If you feel that immediate discussion is not appropriate, write down "This is not helpful for my child," and ask to discuss it later.
  • Take a break.
    • Ask for a 10 minutes break if discussion contents are too complicated, hard to understand, or too much time has passed. Organize thoughts, call for help if necessary, or rejuvenate your energy.
    • If you are unable to continue, ask to reschedule.
  • Ask to articulate positively your child's disability and learning ability.
    • For example, if a team member states "...unable to do....," then ask her or him to state what your child CAN do. This will help team members to develop new aggressive educational goals rather than passively fulfilling inability in your child's educational goals. • All the services and help need to be documented in the IEP.
    • The IEP is a legal document. School is not responsible for what is not written in IEP. If you hear that the school will provide a service, without documenting it in the IEP, ask for it to be written in the IEP or an amendment to protect your child's rights.
    • The IEP must be executed within 10 days. Assistive technology tools must also be provided within 10 days.
  • Schedule regular IEP meetings before the annual IEP meeting to discuss the child's development related to specific IEP goals with professionals. From the beginning of the IEP, once a week or twice a month meetings are good. Once it is settled, hold once a month IEP meetings to find out your child's development.
  • Document who is responsible for each goal in the IEP document.
  • Behavioral management plan must be a part of the IEP.
  • Include an ITP(Individualized Transitional Plan) at the age of 16. The ITP goals must be included in the IEP at age 15.
  • Before signing the IEP document, make sure to read and check the document and note carefully anything that needs to be reviewed.
  • Before leaving the IEP meeting, if necessary, schedule the next IEP meeting.
  • When the IEP meeting has smoothly progressed and closed, express appreciation to each IEP team member with appropriate compliments.