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Any parent who has a child in special education has come to know the meaning of the phrase "IEP". You've probably also come to know that feeling of dread that begins to build in the pit of your stomach as soon as the meeting notice arrives. Fortunately, you don't have to let the IEP process overwhelm you. You CAN walk into an IEP meeting prepared & ready -- and here's how you do it!

1. Read last year's IEP -- It's important to review what came out of last year's plan. Was it successful? Did the methods of instruction work? Did the measurement process used really tell you if progress was being made? Were the goals & objectives really functional for your child? Also try to think back to the actual meeting -- what part of the discussion did you feel least prepared for? Remembering will help you prepare better this time around! You may also want to check out this the 72 point checklist located here to make sure that your school's IEP format includes everything that should be there: .

2. Update your advocacy notebook -- Hopefully you have a single book that allows you to keep all of your child's information (evaluations, old IEPs, correspondence with school & service providers, etc.) organized & easily accessible. If there is new information from Dr.'s, teachers, or related service providers that needs added to your book -- take care of the filing now. You'll be glad to have the most current information if the issue comes up during the meeting.

3. Do your homework -- Is there any new information on your child's disability, have you heard about any promising new intervention strategies that caught your attention? Now is the time to check them out. Research them on the Internet or contact a local resource person who can tell you more or provide you with information to review.

4. Come prepared to "grow" your team -- If you've found anything interesting during your research, the IEP meeting is an excellent time to share this information. Rather than contacting everyone individually or relying on 1 person to pass on your information, you can share it with everyone at once. If the information describe an intervention strategy you would like used in this year's IEP then be sure to bring copies so everyone can look over the information at once during the meeting. Few professional team members are going to be willing to sign off on something they don't understand or feel comfortable with. By helping them learn, you maximize your chances of getting what you want.

5. Make your list -- Once you're organized & your research is complete is time to make your list. What are the issues you feel really need to be addressed in your child's IEP. Remember other team members may want to add additional items during your discussion, but you don't want to be thinking afterwards, "Oh I really wanted to discuss X & forgot to bring it up." Right now, while you're calm & not under time pressure is the time to decide what the issues are from your perspective.

Still need some moral support? Here are 2 to consider:

The IEP Support & Discussion Group at Yahoo

The IEP Assistance & Consultation Service at Ideal Lives

Now go into that conference room with confidence knowing that you are the ultimate "expert" on your child!

© 2000 Lisa Simmons

These tips are excerpted from Lisa's mini-guide "A Parent's Guide to the IEP", learn more about it at:
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