5 Tips to Prepare for an IEP Meeting

Most general education teachers don't learn in college how to prepare for an IEP meeting - fortunately, veteran teacher and Advisory Board Member Heather has these 5 tips from her experience to share with anyone getting ready to successfully attend one for the first time.

Updated on: July 28, 2020

5 tips for preparing for an IEP meeting

Given the growing prevalence of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs, for short) among students of all backgrounds and abilities, chances are you will be asked to attend an IEP planning meeting at some point in your career (if you haven’t already). Generally, an IEP meeting will include the student's parent(s), case manager(s), special education teacher(s), administrators, paraprofessionals, and possibly other specialists (speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy, school psychologist, guidance, nurse, etc.)...and you, the student’s classroom teacher. Together, you will devise and decide on an individual learning plan for the student, which may include a dizzying array of special scaffolds and supports, behavior considerations, inclusivity recommendations, and, of course, academic and social-emotional goals.

While it might sound intimidating to be part of such a large group, tasked with such an important outcome, it doesn’t have to be! While many general education teachers feel like they are out of their realm when asked to participate in an IEP meeting or planning session, you can instantly build up your confidence and knowledge of a student’s plan by taking several proactive steps before participating in a meeting with the team.

If you’ve never attended an IEP meeting before, or if you want to brush up on your IEP meeting etiquette, here are some tips for how to be an asset and wealth of knowledge during the process.

1. Understand Each Section of the IEP

You can find many sample IEPs online. If you take the time to read through one carefully, you will understand what to expect. For example, the meeting involves a team of professionals and parents, as well as administrators that need to attend. The student may also be part of the team, but they generally only attend the meeting once they are older.

You can also read and review some sample goals and begin to think of some input you may have of your own that you’d like to offer so that the child in mind can be successful and show growth, which is the whole point of a plan.

2. Consider a Pre-Meeting

If you have any major academic or behavioral concerns that could potentially require a further evaluation, diagnosis, or even a change of placement, it is essential that you bring them up with the student’s case manager prior to the meeting. While IEP meetings are “discussions” between team members, it can be very helpful to have a pre-meeting with other teachers, counselors, administrators, and even special education supervisors prior to meeting with the parents. This ensures that all ducks are in a row and that everyone on the team is on the same page. It also gives you time to prepare your talking points and build a file of factual information rather than relying on personal views.

3. Carry a Portfolio

Many general education teachers keep portfolios on their students. This is a great way to provide examples of work, keep track of grades, standardized assessment scores, and even pre- and post-test scores to discuss growth (or lack thereof). You can also keep communication (printed emails and notes) in it, as well, if you need to address a concern, direct quote, or even establish a timeline of events. A portfolio doesn’t need to be bound or look fancy in any way - a file folder does the trick. You’ll also be surprised as to what you can find online (and for free) to help you organize all this information!

4. Follow the "3 Positives" Rule

Whenever you meet with a parent, regardless of who the student is, you should always start out with 3 positive qualities that the child brings into your classroom. Sometimes, this can be a struggle. Think of creative ways to put a positive spin on things. For example, you can say that the child has a lot to contribute to discussions, attempts to answer questions, and shows a willingness to accept help. This practice helps set a positive tone and lets parents know that you enjoy working with their child, you accept them for who they are, and you recognize positive qualities!

5. Provide Follow-Up Information

If the student’s IEP meeting is the first time you’ve met their parents, hand them a slip of paper (you can print it on colored paper or cardstock) that contains your email and school number so they can contact you with questions or concerns. It adds a nice professional touch and shows all members of the team that you are prepared and open to future communication!

Most general education teachers aren’t trained in their college careers for IEP meetings - they learn once they are in the field. Consider some of these tips to ensure that you arrive on time, organized, smiling, and are ready to show the team that you are a stakeholder in a child’s educational journey!

Heather Aulisio is a third grade teacher in Pennsylvania. She has been a teacher for nearly 15 years and holds multiple degrees and certifications. A freelancer for The Mailbox and other education-related clients and publications, she enjoys writing in order to help and entertain fellow teachers. She currently resides with her husband, Bryan; son, Matthew; and two pugs, Lily and Leo.

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