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By Wayne Steedman
Prior to the start of the IEP meeting, you should determine who among your team will be the primary spokesperson. That does not mean that no one else can speak but having a designated person to convey your team’s position helps with efficiency and avoids confusion. Whether you are allowed to audio record the IEP meeting is controlled by state law. If your state allows recording, I highly recommend recording using a digital recorder. It is very difficult to take complete notes and participate in the team discussion at the same time. It is not unusual for memories to differ on what was said and even decided.
School teams often want to focus immediately on the new IEP. Before doing that, “close out” the existing IEP. Close out means to obtain a final report of progress made on each goal. Was the goal achieved and if not how much progress was made? A goal that was not achieved should be continued on the new IEP, albeit with a higher baseline if the child made any progress. As noted in Step 4, progress on goals should be reflected in the present levels.
Disagreements are not uncommon but arguments should be. Treat all members of the team with respect. Raised voices and clenched fists accomplish nothing but make you look unreasonable. If you disagree with someone’s comment or assessment, express your disagreement in a calm and reasonable manner. I find it useful to start such comments with “I respectfully disagree...” It's important, however, to note your disagreement for the record. Although the goal is to avoid a due process hearing, if you are unsuccessful you do not want the school to claim at the hearing that you never disagreed with their assessments or the IEP.
The outcome of the meeting and placement decision should be clearly stated in the IEP. Anyone looking at the IEP should be able tell exactly what services the child will receive and where he will receive them. Many schools will provide a written summary of the meeting. If the school reviews the summary at the meeting be sure that it accurately reflects not only the decisions made but any disagreements.
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