Question: How do I prepare for an IEP meeting, and should I bring an advocate or an attorney?
Answer: An IEP is an individualized education plan, it's sort of the blueprint the school's going to be using for your child. It's going to have their strengths and weaknesses, the goals and objectives that the school is going to be working on. And preparing for that can be sort of time-consuming.
You really want to make sure you have a good idea of what your child can do and what they can't do. If they have other therapists, getting reports on their progress they've made with that therapist. You really want to make sure the parents are seen as a meaningful part of that IEP. You're the ones that really know the child the best, you know what they're going to work for, you know what they don't like, what they do like.
Bringing an advocate or an attorney with you -- in an initial IEP, you may want to just bring some support with you, whether it be a grandmother or a friend, an aunt, an uncle because they can real stressful and emotional times, and you want someone there who can sort of go back and review with you what's going on and give you the support you need.
A real advocate or an attorney is probably better, say, for if there is any sort of confrontation between the school and the parents on the IEP -- things like placement or what are appropriate goals, what is the eligibility category. Things like that. You don't want to necessarily jump in and bring an attorney on your first one because that sets up a confrontational atmosphere for the IEP.
So, advocates and attorneys can be helpful, but you don't want to just jump in with them. But you also want support, emotional support as I said, through either grandparents, aunts, uncles or a friend to go in with you.