Individual Education Plans: What do you need to know to be ready for your child’s IEP meeting

July 24, 2020

Individual education plans, better known as IEPs, are both a process and a document that is written for those who have been deemed eligible to receive special education and related services through the education system. As a clinician, I am constantly asking questions to get to the bottom of why things happen – or more so, why things are not happening - within my client’s education system. Below are a few points to consider after it has been determined your child is eligible for an IEP, and the steps to take to ensure that your child’s needs are being met.

Manuel Ramirez

AnswersNow BCBA

Individual education plans, better known as IEPs, are both a process and a document that is written for those who have been deemed eligible to receive special education and related services through the education system. As a clinician, I am constantly asking questions to get to the bottom of why things happen – or more so, why things are not happening - within my client’s education system. Below are a few points to consider after it has been determined your child is eligible for an IEP, and the steps to take to ensure that your child’s needs are being met.

 Questions that parents have asked me in the past that might help you!


1. How many people are in an IEP?

When parents first get into the motion of participating in an IEP, many do not know what they are going into. Many parents have expressed that they have felt bombarded as they have walked into a meeting with well over 7 different school officials present plus themselves. I always inform the parents to expect to go into the meeting with many people present and get to know who each person is as those people will more than likely be the ones delivering a service that has been granted by the IEP team. These people will not only talk about their specialty but will outline the performance of your child. 

2. Should I sign anything on the spot while in the IEP?

This is entirely up to you. If you feel that your child’s IEP team is meeting the needs of your child and you like how the goals that have been specified by the team, feel free to sign the document. But if you feel that you need or want additional time to read it over, or have someone else that you have hired read the document to ensure that the goals and skills that are to be taught can be accessed with the recommended services, then take the document home and inform the team you need time before signing. There is nothing wrong with deciding to do this, and you should feel free to do what makes you comfortable.

3. Can we really only have 1 meeting a year?

This is not always the case. If you want to evaluate the current services in place, if you feel that the services your child is receiving are not benefiting your child, or if you think something additional needs to be worked on, then you have the right to call an emergency IEP meeting. Typically, you can inform the school that you would like to have a meeting to address your child’s IEP, and they have 30 days once they receive notice to set this up. 

4. Notes!

Be sure to take lots of notes, so that you can make sure you can ask questions about what has been reviewed. If you want, you can even choose to record the meeting, so as to be able to reference back exact information later. 

5. How long are the meetings?

This will depend on the level of service your child is receiving. A typical meeting may last 1-2 hours. If your child has been deemed to receive many services from your school system, or if any additional parties are involved (such as advocates or lawyers), this may extend the meeting, perhaps to go as long as 2-4 hours. Usually if longer than this, the meeting will be temporarily adjourned and another meeting will be scheduled to ensure all concerns and all information are able to be addressed. 


I’m in my meeting, what should I be on the lookout for?

  1. From a behavior analyst standpoint, I often find that many goals do not have clear definitions of how the team will implement the goal. Thus it is important to ask how the team will go about setting up, implementing, and tracking the goal. 
  2. When your child is being evaluated, be sure the educational team is looking into all of your concerns. Ask how they will test for each area.
  3. If your child is determined to have access to a behavioral aid, be sure to ask for a copy of the behavior intervention plan (BIP). This should list the steps that the aid will take both before (proactively) and after (reactively) your child engages in behaviors.
  4. Some testing may not be able to gain access to results. Be sure to ask for details, such as if the assessor was not able to see a skill or if they were not able to notice a skill deficit - and how this will be accounted for so that it can be observed. 
  5. Ask about the wording of goals. Goals should not be vague - they should be clear and concise, so that any new person coming in can implement it (same with the behavior intervention plan!).
  6. When there are so many people in the meeting, you as the parent are allowed to ask for certain  people to specifically participate or not participate, as well as to excuse others from not being present. The team may ask you if certain members can be excused - feel free to ask the pros and cons of this, and to say yes or no, depending what makes sense to you. 
  7. If goals are met earlier than the date that the IEP ends, ask the team how they will come up with others to replace them.


If you feel like you need further support for your child's next IEP meeting, download the AnswersNow app and connect with one of our BCBAs.




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