It’s IEP time again for many parents of children with autism. Last week, we polled our readers for their answers to the question, “What do you do to successfully prepare yourself for IEP meetings?” Here are the Top 10 Tips of the week.
1. Do your research. Familiarize yourself with special education law and research any specific concerns you have. A good resource is www.wrightslaw.com .
2. Bring supports with you. This could be a knowledgeable family member or friend, or you may want to hire an expert, especially if you’ve not been able to secure the services your child needs in the past.
3. Keep an open mind, but don’t allow yourself to be steamrolled. Be prepared to stick to your guns in advocating for needed supports and services.
4. Obtain a draft IEP two weeks prior to the meeting. This will allow you to make revisions as needed via email or phone calls in advance, and to prepare to advocate in any unresolved areas.
5. Keep the lines of communication open throughout the year. Insist on a communication log between you and your child’s teachers and support staff for consistency in keeping this a team effort.
6. Audio record the meeting to be able to address any discrepancies in memory down the road. Notify the school in writing prior to the meeting that you’ll have a recording device with you.
7. Make a list of your child’s strengths and challenges to share with the team. This will better acquaint all involved with areas needing particular focus and effort.
8. Don’t sign anything at the meeting. Instead, take all paperwork home with you to review outside the pressure of the meeting. Resolve any issues with the IEP team before signing and submitting the paperwork.
9. Be professional. Present yourself in a manner in which it’s clear you take your child’s education seriously.
10. Remember that you are your child’s best advocate. Be the eyes, ears, and voice for your child during the entire IEP process.
For more helpful strategies on making the most of IEP meetings, see Lynne Arnold’s article in The Autism File fall issue, available October 4, and Kim Linderman’s blog, “Autism Inside-Out”: http://www.autismfile.com/blog/autism-inside-out . Check back with The Autism File on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/autismfile later this week for another opportunity to share your expertise with others. Your strategies and ideas can make a difference for other autism families!