Top 10 Things To Do Before Your Child’s IEP

Ethan Grecian leads his IEP team at Anderson Union High School.

Ethan Grecian leads his IEP team at Anderson Union High School.

An IEP (Individualized Education Program) is very important for your child’s education. An IEP is a written statement of the educational program designed to meet a child’s individual needs – every child who receives special education services must have an IEP. But the IEP planning process can be very stressful for parents!

The more prepared you are for your child’s IEP meetings, the less stressed you will feel. I have been going to my son’s IEP meetings for the past 16 years; some have been more stressful than others. The main tool that has always helped my son and me has been having a prepared agenda to refer to during the IEP meeting. 

Here are 10 tips for making the IEP process go as smoothly as possible: 

  1. Never go alone! IEPs are emotionally draining. By taking someone with you such as a relative, friend or another parent, you will not feel alone. They can take notes and listen. You will be surprised how much of the IEP they may remember that you might have missed.
  2. Be prepared. Have an agenda ready of the items you want to discuss, concerns that you may have, and questions that you need answered. Check off your items as you go to make sure you did not forget anything.
  3. Review your child’s evaluations before the IEP. If your child had evaluations or assessments done before the IEP, ask for them in advance in writing.  This way you can review them, and if you have questions, write your questions on your agenda.
  4. Attend an IEP preparation training. Special Education includes language and terms that you might not be familiar with such as LRE, LEA, 504, etc. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a complex law which includes timelines, rights, responsibilities, duties and requirements, among many other things. Armed with this knowledge, you will feel empowered and better prepared to advocate for your child’s education.
  5. Come with you own ideas for goals. The IEP team can help you draft these goals once you give them an idea of what you would like.
  6. If a meeting is taking longer than 1V hours, ask to reschedule it. Do not rush through your child’s IEP. This is about your child’s education! You may reschedule for more time to finish up items.
  7. Have your child attend their IEP whenever possible, and if you can, talk to your child before the IEP to prepare him. By including your child in the process, you are giving your child the opportunity to “buy into” his education. It is also an opportunity for your child to tell you what works or does not work.
  8. Make sure the right people will be at the meeting to answer your questions.  Your Notice of IEP Meeting includes a list of the people who have been invited to the IEP. If you do not see the name of the person you want to see, let the school know in writing that you want that person invited to the IEP.
  9. You have the right to not sign the IEP at the meeting. An IEP is a comprehensive document. If you feel you need more time to read it over, you may ask to take it home to review, and bring it back to the school within 48 hours.
  10. Remember that this is your child’s IEP TEAM and YOU are part of that TEAM. You are your child’s first teacher. You know your child the best! IDEA states that the parents are the most important part of the IEP team – remember that your voice is important.

Rowell Family Empowerment of Northern California offers a variety of services for parents in all northern counties. Rowell can help review your child’s documents with you to explain things, and may be able to help write up your IEP agenda. On-site trainings are offered along with live webinars online, and include IEP preparation; behavior support plans; helping youth make transitions; financial planning for your child’s future; and more. Visit for classes, workshops and services information, or call Rowell’s offices in Chico at (530) 899-8801 and Redding at (530) 226-5129.

 For the past 10 years I have been working for Rowell Family Empowerment teaching other parents how to get ready for their child’s IEP.  Although IEPs can be emotionally and physically taxing, preparation is the key to success.  

Wendy Longwell
About Wendy Longwell

Wendy Longwell has four children whose special needs have required 504's, IEPs and behavior plans. Her work enables her to help other parents with whatever problems they face with their children. When not working she spends time with her family and many animals.

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