What To Expect at a Special Education IEP Meeting

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a must for students receiving special education services. The IEP meeting takes place at least once a year to revise. Prior to the meeting the special education teacher will collect and review data, make new goals, discuss concerns, and decide what services a child needs and how often they need them. These meetings cover a lot of information and can feel overwhelming for parents and guardians.

An IEP meeting can also look a bit different for everyone. Still, I’m a firm believer that knowing the basics of what to expect can help you feel more prepared. This guide aims to help those new to the IEP process feel confident walking in and discussing their child’s services.

What You Should Expect at an IEP Meeting

  • Who Will Attend
  • What to Bring
  • What Will Be Discussed
  • What to Ask
  • After the IEP Meeting
  • Summary: What to Expect at an IEP Meeting

Who Will Attend

Several people will be invited to an IEP meeting for your child. This includes you, your co-parent, the child. Children are encouraged to participate when they reach 14-16 years old and have skills to self-advocate. Other participants include your child’s general education teacher, special education teacher, a school district representative, and a school psychologist if it is an IEP feedback meeting after a recent evaluation. 

Parents or guardians can also choose to have a friend or close relative come along for support or help with note-taking. Special education advocates can also accompany you to IEP meetings.

I wrote a guide about the roles and responsibilities of IEP meeting participants that you might find helpful as you prepare for your child’s meeting. It explains more in-depth about what each person does and why they’re a key player in your child’s IEP.

Each member of the IEP meeting receives an invite before the meeting. However, scheduling conflicts can sometimes prevent some from attending. IEP meetings can take place by phone or video call to make it easier for everyone to participate if the legal guardian consents to this format.

If a member of the team is unable to attend the meeting the guardian must first consent to the absence and then will be asked to complete an excusal form. If the guardian does not agree to the absence of a team member the meeting must be rescheduled.

What to Bring

IEP meetings cover a lot of information. I always tell parents and guardians to prepare for an IEP meeting similar to how you’d prepare for a job interview or a meeting at work. That means be prepared to take notes (and a person to help you take notes if it makes it easier for you!).

Bring along any documents that you feel can enhance the discussion about your child. Include results from outside specialists, medical records, or even samples of work your child has completed at home.

Also, bring your child’s outgoing IEP with you if they have one. It can be helpful to refer to it when you and the IEP team are ready to discuss new goals and services. 

A file folder can come in handy for the meeting, too. IEPs can include lots of paperwork, and a file folder keeps documents organized and easy to access. Leave one section of the folder open for any notes you or a helper took during your meeting.

Consider taking a few things solely for your own comfort, too. Gum helps some people relieve anxiety during the meeting, and a bottle of water prevents the mouth from getting dry while talking. 

Some parents or guardians also bring a recording device, like a cell phone, to take an audio recording of the meeting to refer back to later. Each state, rather than the federal government, decides whether IEP recordings are legal. You can contact your state’s Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) to learn more about the legalities of doing so in your state.

What Will Be Discussed

An IEP meeting may take an hour or longer, as the team discusses several important facts and details regarding your child’s evaluations and eligible services. Parents and guardians are encouraged to negotiate and share their opinions on anything the team discusses at the meeting. Here’s what you can expect to talk about at each IEP meeting:

Evaluation Results

For a child’s first IEP meeting, the team will go over evaluation results that determine the child’s disability and the need for services. After the initial evaluation, every 3 years you can expect a re-evaluation meeting where the team will reassess a student’s needs and areas of qualification. 

Academic Achievement

Your child’s general and special education teacher will take turns discussing their academic achievement to give you an idea of where your child’s educational strengths and weaknesses lie. For example, the teacher may talk about participation in the classroom, classwork and homework performance, test and quiz results, and standardized assessment results. They’ll also explain any modifications they’ve made thus far to the curriculum to assist your child in the classroom.

The team relies on academic achievement measures to make necessary modifications to lesson plans, goals, and services to meet your child’s needs.

Future Goals

Together, you and the IEP team members discuss your child’s IEP goals. The goals should be measurable ones that the services listed in your child’s IEP can assist with. For instance, a goal for a child who will be receiving reading intervention services might look like this:

By the end of the IEP period, Hannah will read 60 words per minute with 90% accuracy using level F books.

This goal is one that teachers and specialists can easily measure when working with Hannah on her reading skills.

Specific IEP goals can be challenging for parents and guardians to create because they often don’t understand the terminology specialists use when writing goals. However, relay what you’d like your child to work on with the team, and they can turn it into a goal. For example, the team may have created the goal above after a parent said, “I’d like Hannah to read at her grade level this school year.”

Remember that the IEP is a collaborative effort. Don’t feel as though you need to be an expert to have a critical role. Specialists are there to gather all the information into the IEP and explain technical results to you. You’re there to advocate for your child and offer opinions from a parental point of view, which is just as important.

Details of Services

Finally, the team details the services a child will receive as outlined in the IEP. Each specialist or teacher who will work with your child has a specific number of hours they’ll work with your child each day, week, or month. They’ll explain this amount to you along with the exact type of services they’ll provide.

This is an excellent time to negotiate if you feel that it’s necessary. Sometimes, the amount of time outlined in the IEP for a service doesn’t coincide with what you want for your child. Although not all requests will be approved, asking the school for more time with a service provider doesn’t hurt.

What to Ask

IEP meetings can raise a lot of questions for you. You can stop to ask questions or share your opinion at any time, whether you need clarity, have a suggestion, or don’t agree with something. You can also jot down questions you want to remind yourself to ask at the end of the meeting, especially if they pertain to future IEP meetings.

In addition to anything you want to ask regarding your child’s specific IEP or anything discussed at the meeting, you should also consider some of the following questions to ask the IEP team:

  • When will we meet again for future IEPs?
  • Who do I contact if I think of anything else after the meeting?
  • How do I modify my child’s IEP?
  • What support will the teacher have in implementing these modifications in the classroom?
  • What happens if my child masters a goal before the next IEP meeting?
  • How can I support my child’s IEP goals at home?

After the IEP Meeting

Congratulations — you’ve made it through the IEP meeting! Now, it’s time for the school to implement the IEP. Prior to implementation you will receive a prior written notice (PWN) that will outline what was discussed at the meeting and next steps. This document is attached to the IEP and is required by law to inform guardians of implementation. You can expect services to start within three days of the IEP meeting being held.

When you get home, file the papers you brought with you and the new forms you received at the meeting in your IEP file folder. Doing this immediately after the meeting is the best way to prevent important paperwork from getting lost in the shuffle.

Until the next meeting, monitoring your child’s services is the best thing you can do to ensure that the school is meeting the terms of the IEP. Feel free to call in to get updates from your child’s teachers and specialists to understand what they’re working on and how often they’re receiving services.

What to Expect at an IEP Meeting

The IEP meeting seems a bit less intimidating when you know what to expect when you walk in, doesn’t it? The biggest takeaway here: You are just as crucial to the IEP team as anyone else on the team. Feel confident walking in, and you’ll have an easier time advocating for your child.

What are you most nervous about for your first IEP meeting? Are there any other questions you have? Please leave a comment or email me to let me know!

About the author

Emily Cummings

I am a mom of two crazy, amazing, independent, little feminists. They bring so much light to my life and a lot less sleep. Since becoming a mother and increasingly in the last year, I have witnessed parents struggling to connect with their child's special education team with no success. I have become more aware of the gaps in our public school system and how parents may benefit from empowerment and advocacy tools.

My work experiences range from a juvenile detention center to an autism specialist in the Issaquah School District and a special education teacher in a self-contained program in the Lake Washington School District. My master's in teaching focused on special education and behavioral disorders from Seattle Pacific University. I completed my BCBA coursework from Montana State University.

Want to get in touch?

I'm happy to help however I can. Email me at hello at behaviorist .com.

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