Preparing for an IEP?

Tips & Strategies for Parents

An IEP (Individualized Education Program) is a conference held to design a unique and tailored education plan for your child. The end result of the IEP meeting is a contract with the district which spells out, in detail, the services and conditions that your child will require in the school setting.

Who are the Members of the IEP Team?

The IEP team consists of several members of the school district staff, each with a different area of expertise. For instance there may be a school psychologist, a teacher, an occupational therapist, a speech therapist, and so on depending on the needs of your child. Any therapist who conducted an assessment of your child at the direction of the district must participate in your child’s IEP.

Another equally participating member of the team is you, the parent. Your input carries just as much weight as any other member of the team. Finally, you have the right to include other members such as your child’s current therapists, an attorney or an advocate and a support person if you require one.

How Often are the IEPs held?

Under current IDEA guidelines an IEP must be held once per year. The parent or the district has the right to call an emergency IEP if a component of the established IEP is not working. An emergency IEP can be called at any time.

When is the Initial IEP Held?

This depends on when your child’s special need is identified. If you child is served through the Regional Center’s Early Intervention Program then your initial IEP will be held at the age of three.

Preparing for the IEP

Getting your Assessments in Order: Before entering your IEP all assessments should have been conducted. Assessments provided by outside sources such as private providers are helpful and should be included where possible. Please note that before attending the IEP, parents have the right to receive a copy of all assessment reports that the district intends to use. You are entitled to receive these reports in advance to allow you sufficient time for review. If you have not been given sufficient time to review the assessments, you may ask that the IEP be rescheduled to give you that time for review. However the same rules apply for private assessments that you intend to have considered. Be certain that you provide all assessments to the district well in advance of the IEP.

Make your School Visits: In the situation of initial placement or change of level or district you will have the opportunity to visit several school sites before the IEP. It is wise to visit the sites, take notes on the pros and cons of each, and determine which site, if any, is most appropriate for your child. Things to consider may be class size, teacher to student ratio, peer interaction, and ability to mainstream. The district team will likely make a placement recommendation on the day of the IEP. If you intend to raise the issue of private placement, you should be prepared with all facts and supporting information. This suggestion is something most districts will oppose at the outset.

Attending the Meeting

At the IEP: On the day of the IEP you will meet either at a school site or within the district offices. If you would like to tape the IEP you must notify the district that you will be doing so. You do have the right to do so. Each member of the team will introduce themselves and a roster will be passed around. All attending the meeting will sign the roster of attendance. A copy of the roster can be provided to you at the end of the meeting. After the assessment reports are read and recommendations are provided you can discuss any differences you may have.

Finalizing the IEP: At the conclusion of the IEP the district will have drafted a written education plan for your child. This written document should include all of the findings of the team. You will be asked to sign the document. If you have reached agreement with the district’s team and believe that the plan will serve your child’s needs then you should sign the document. If you are unsure and would like further time to consider the proposed IEP, you have the right to take a copy home and consider it outside of the pressures of the IEP setting. If you agree with some parts of the IEP and disagree in others, you can set out your disagreements on a page that will be provided. This document becomes the basis for further hearing on these issues. This element of the procedure is called Due Process. Be careful in completing the form as it is possible to waive your right to an attorney or advocate in future proceedings.

IEP Survival Tips

The IEP process can be difficult, especially when transitioning from Regional Center services to school district provided services. Attempt to remain organized and prepared. Try to keep your emotions out of the process and remain as business like as possible. Your child has the right to access the educational system in a way that provides him or her with a free and appropriate education.

These materials were prepared by Mark Woodsmall, founder of the Woodsmall Law Group and the parent of a child with Autism. For more information on securing your child’s educational records, please contact us at