What Not to Say in an IEP Meeting: IEP Dos and Don’ts for Parents

The following list of IEP dos and don’ts is excerpted from The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education by Amanda Morin:

Every meeting is different, but there are some basics of etiquette that you should try to stick to. It’s easier to remember them as the dos and don’ts of a meeting. Hopefully, everyone in the meeting follows these basic rules.

1. DO be respectful of other people’s opinions. Being rude or attacking a person for her opinion will not be helpful in coming to an agreement. It’s more likely to make other people defensive and not as willing to listen to your own opinions.

2. DON’T accept opinion as a fact. Feel free to ask for clarification or for the evidence that backs up an opinion.

3. DO ask questions. If there’s something you don’t understand, speak up. You’re probably not the only person around the table who doesn’t understand, and even if you are, you have to completely understand what’s going on to make informed decisions about your child’s education.

4. DON’T be intimidated. Staying silent because you’re worried about what people will think or because you think the professionals know best is more likely to lead to resentment and misunderstandings.

5. DO give people the benefit of the doubt. Making accusations or assuming that the school is going to oppose your ideas just because they can isn’t fair. Unless you have clear reason to believe otherwise, it’s better to assume that everybody there wants to help your child.

6. DON’T be accusatory. Even if you encounter differing opinions or opposition, try to stay firm but fair. Until you ask directly about the motives behind a decision or opinion, you can’t know for sure what somebody else is thinking.

7. DO keep your temper. It’s okay to be emotional at an IEP meeting, and it’s even okay to cry; most people will be sympathetic and understand that it is difficult to sit in a meeting and hear about your child’s weaknesses. But it’s essential to keep your temper under control. It may not be easy to do, especially if you feel like your parenting is being questioned, you’re not being listened to, or an inaccurate picture is being painted of your child. But losing your temper may also cause your point to be lost as well.

8. DON’T hesitate to disagree. If you think a goal isn’t appropriate, you have every right to say so. If you think a teacher isn’t seeing the full scope of your child’s limitations, speak up and explain what other teachers have seen in the past and what you see at home. Disagreement doesn’t necessarily have to cause strife. It’s a way to make sure all the issues and angles are thoroughly explored.

Excerpted from: Chapter 19: Attending and Participating in an IEP Meeting

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