Skip to main content

From the Vault: 6 Tips for Smoother IEP Meetings

If you’re a parent of a child in school and that child has a special need, you have experienced the IEP – Individual Education Plan - meeting. Endless information about IEP documents and meetings can be found at conferences and in magazines, books and websites. Unfortunately, there are many horror stories about IEPs. Anxiety, fear and dread would probably be on most people’s list of how they feel about the meeting.

I don’t dread IEP meetings anymore. I believe they can lead to creating successful goals for your child and the meetings can be done with little stress and anxiety. 

Here are six suggestions based on what I’ve learned from researching and participating in IEP meetings for the past 16 years:

Treat them to food. Donuts, muffins, cookies and juice and/or coffee make friends. Food puts everyone in a good mood, and it makes the atmosphere less tense. And in some cases, it may serve a very practical purpose - teachers and other school staff do not get much time to eat during the day, especially during IEP time. Everyone will appreciate your effort. Be sure to leave the leftovers for other staff. 

Take along a photo. Set a framed photo of your cutie pie on the table for all to see. Before the meeting starts or when you have the opportunity to introduce yourself, simply say, “We are all on the same team, and here for the same reason, to make sure this child gets the best education he can get. This photo will help us to remember this.”

Bring your posse. At an IEP meeting, the school is required to have several people there to represent many different aspects of the educational system. You could walk into a room with five or six school members and feel intimidated. Bring a friend, a spouse, past teacher and/or private therapist. The people you bring may never have to speak up, but you know they are there for you and will provide support if needed.

Do your homework. Look at the Wright’s Law website, read about what to expect in the meeting, review current laws and the draft IEP, attend any local workshops about IEPs and write down questions to ask. Know what is most important to you in regard to the IEP. What goals will you not budge on? What services are you not willing to give up? What changes do you want made? What do you want to stay the same?

Remove distractions. I made the mistake early in my IEP experience of bringing my one-year old with me to a meeting. I was stressed trying to take care of him while trying to understand what the school was saying about Ben. And I had to rush things along because one-year olds don’t do two hour meetings. So, arrive to the meeting early, get a babysitter for any little ones and clear your calendar for many hours.

Adjust your attitude. At a Wright’s Law Conference I attended a few years ago, they stressed the importance of the way in which you present yourself at the meeting. Entering the meeting feeling angry, frustrated or defensive will only set the tone for a stressful meeting, sometimes placing the school staff as the “enemy.” Another common mistake parents can make is to come into an IEP meeting with the “know-it-all” attitude. An open mind and a positive disposition can help people hear what you have to say; especially if you have done your homework and can discuss points intelligently.

*A version of this post first published in 2009. 


  1. Wow! This is excellent, very positive information pertaining to IEP Meetings that will help so many people. What a wonderful post this that helps parents just starting out and even those who have already gotten their feet wet numerous times to have a fresh and positive outlook on those IEP Meetings. I love your blog!

  2. Thank you Sandie! With anything in life, we always need to look at it again through another lense.

  3. great points! I neverthought to bring food. We have a great team and a multi-dis kid, so I am one of the few whom doesn't have to worry about going it alone. I need to find a babysitter though. Having the kids in the room is a major distraction.


Post a Comment

Thank you for reading my post. I appreciate you taking the time to comment. If you wish to contact me directly, please let me know and I will email you.

Popular posts from this blog

Parenting an Adult Child with Disabilities

  "Parenting an Adult Child with Disabilities" is a series on eSpeciallyBen. As Ben approached 18, it was clear our role changed as parents. We needed to help Ben transition into adulthood. These stories are meant to assist other families who face, or will face, some of the same challenges. Talking About the Future Guest Post - Matt Wilson Legal Guardianship, Medicaid and SSI Researching Group Homes Questions to Ask at a Group Home Visit Referral Packet for Group Homes Getting Assistance from a Care Manager From Group Home Placement to Discharge Reaching for Independence

Impromptu Pet Therapy

  Ben met Doodle today. One of the staff at his day program brought him in. Ben loves dogs and these photos made my day. 

ABC's of ABA

A few weeks ago I attended a workshop presented by a behavior therapist. As it turned out, I went to a conference on the same topic over a year ago. I will describe what I have taken away from these methods in my own words - but please take a look at the links I have provided below. After I learned about this, life with children made a lot more sense to me. Not that this is earth shattering material, but it helped me to better understand the hows, whats and whys of behavior in children, and occasionally husbands. I am in no way an expert in this - just a parent who wants to share a behavior strategy that has worked in our home. I hope to inspire others to explore it further.  Any errors in information comes from me and cannot be blamed on the presenters. Also, you may have seen ABA - Applied Behavior Analysis - connected most often with Autism - please do not let this deter you if your child is not autistic. I use these methods with all my children, none of which are labeled au