Millburn-Short Hills Special Education Committee
IEP Meeting Tips

Be Your Child's Best Advocate

Here is a Top 10 List to Negotiate the Best IEP for your Child

by Doug Goldberg*

10. Prepare

Review all past and present assessments, tests, letters, and IEP’s.  Put markers next to important information so it’s easy to find while in the IEP meeting.  Pay close attention to test scores and how that information may be used by either you or the District to make a point.  This may include educating yourself on how to read the test scores.  If you don’t have enough information to make your case then you won’t convince the IEP team.

9. Make a formal request

Figure out what is important to your child with regard to services, goals, accommodations, and placement before the meeting and make a formal request in writing at the meeting.

8. Don’t negotiate against yourself

Once you make the formal request wait for a response.  Make sure they respond to each request and remind them of their prior written notice requirement to generate a discussion.

7. Review the IEP meeting request form and determine authority

Do your research and determine if the right person has been invited to the IEP meeting.  While IDEA requires a District representative that can bind the District to attend every IEP meeting they are not all created equal.  Figure out how much authority the District representative has and invite others to attend if you feel you don’t have the right people in the room.  It’s difficult to negotiate if you don’t have the dealmakers in the room.

6. Get other team members on your side

Find other IEP team members who might help prove your side.  This could include general education teachers, special education teachers, therapists or paraprofessionals.  Don’t expect them to fight for specific services but their input about skills, behaviors, abilities, etc can help prove your case.

5. Listen to the other side

Ask specific questions and really listen to the answers.  The information gathered could help further your cause or shape your decisions.  Sometimes what you think you want for your child is different from what they actually need.  Don’t be afraid to change your opinion based on good information but also don’t be afraid to stand firm when the answers only solidify your opinion more.

4. Don’t argue but rather discuss

Most people don’t like to argue so try and stay calm and have an open dialogue.  Don’t avoid tough issues by having an emotional reaction.  Everything relevant to your child’s disability and needs should be discussed.

3. Know your most important issues

Remember this is a negotiation and decide which issues are deal breakers and which ones you can use as a negotiating tool.

2. Try to have informal discussions prior to the IEP meeting

Information is power.  The more information you can accumulate on what the District is thinking the better you can prepare.  This also gives you an opportunity to present your agenda so that the IEP team is not caught off guard and a good discussion can occur.

1. Have a back-up plan

If you are not willing to take the next step you have no power in a negotiation.  With respect to IEP’s, the next step could be mediation, due process, state complaint, Office of Civil Rights complaint or further assessments in the form of an Independent Educational Evaluation at public expense.  Try to educate yourself as to all the options and figure out which one is best for you.