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8 steps to a successful IEP meeting

Page 6 of 7

By Wayne Steedman

Step 7: the IEP meeting

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.

Wayne Steedman is a co-founder and President of Callegary & Steedman, P.A., a law firm located in Baltimore, which primarily focuses on disability law. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland Law School and the School of Social Work, and has practiced law for 19 years with his primary focus on special education. Wayne has represented his clients in due process hearing, state and federal court, and the Third and Fourth Circuit Courts of Appeals. He is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court. He has presented nationwide on special education law and written numerous articles which have been published on-line and in print journals.

Comments from readers

"My wife and I were victims of an IEP system and a school system that cared more about covering their collective backsides than helping my child. Am I mad? YES! This system was run as a for profit prison that used my child to collect money but only cared about what was best for the school. Once my child reached middle school the "teaching" never materialized and the caretaking began. I eventually had to remove my Autistic child from the system due to lack of concern over my Childs welfare. These people (I won’t honor them with the title of teacher), should quit this line of work and go into something more commensurate with their skill level. Mopping floors and scrubbing toilets would probably be just about Wright. EFMP, what a joke. IEP and special Ed what a joke. "
"Shiela, our doctor's diagnosis trumped the school psychologist in our case. Our Primary Care doctor sent us to a Child Neurologist for a full neurological workup. She sent us to the Children's National Medical Center, Children's Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders for extensive evaluations. Fantastic Team. John's Hopkins also has a great team, I'm told. It's not all about what happens at school, as you know. The right team of doctors can help parents learn about their child. The advice we received at Children's has helped us as a family for over 8 years because we understand our son better with their help. School? Well, we're still working on that. Early intervention is key. "
"My nephew has not been diagnosed with autism but it is apparent that he has the symptoms. We would like to find out more to get him diagnosed. The school has tested him but we feel we need other testing entities. We have friend that have an autistic child 10 years old and the school tested him and their test was negative and eventually he was diagnosed with severe autism. If he doesn't have autism he has something. He is 5 and acts like he is 3. He talks ok but communication is not there. He has a 3 year old sister who treats him like he is a baby. His parents are going crazy and we need to get something started now. His favorite thing are spinning tops. Thanks for listening, Sheila "