You Do Not Have to Go Alone
As a parent, you are given the right through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to bring anyone you would like to an IEP meeting who has “knowledge or special expertise regarding the child.”[34 CFR § 300.321(a)(6)] This can mean an outside tutor, doctor, therapist, relative, friend, or an advocate. You may even bring an attorney if you wish. You should provide the school team ample notice of who you plan to bring and their association to your child. This is because many districts need to invite specific people with other roles, depending who you intend to accompany you.
If you have never been to an IEP or 504 Plan meeting, be prepared to get emotional. Not all meetings involve tears, but most do involve some level of elevated emotions, especially for parents. The more you understand the process, language, and politics of special education, the better you will be at not allowing your emotions to cloud your thinking. Until then, bring someone with you to take notes, ask questions, share ideas, and debrief with after the meeting.
Be Prepared and Follow Up
The meeting itself is certainly important, but detailed preparation and prompt follow up are critical. Both can ensure your valuable input is included within your child’s education plan.
An advocate helps guide you through the preparation prior to the meeting. They review the documents the school has sent you, help you formulate your concerns and requests in a way that the team may be receptive to, and anticipate potential disagreements that may occur. After the meeting, the advocate will check their own meeting notes against the final documents and Prior Written Notice (PWN). The school must provide these to you within 5 business days after the meeting. Your advocate will discuss with you any discrepancies that may exist, as well as your options if a disagreement has occurred. The preparation and follow up are essential aspects of every IEP meeting. Both are included in the cost for attending a meeting with an advocate from Charting the Course.
In Maryland, all districts are required to have a written policy regarding permission to record IEP meetings. This policy must be applied across the board. Most districts allow the audio recording of IEP meetings by parents when prior notice is given. When a parent (or their advocate) records an IEP meeting, the school also records the meeting and the recording becomes part of the student’s educational record. As Maryland is a two-party consent state, do not secretly record any discussions you have with the school.
Charting the Course offers transcription services for IEP meeting recordings, which can be especially useful when needing to identify specific time stamps during dispute resolutions.
Sometimes parents fear the presence of an advocate will turn the IEP process adversarial. Depending on the approach of your advocate, your child’s school team, and your history with them, bringing an advocate can indeed change the dynamic of the team. However, a skilled advocate is assertive yet not combative, and a team may become more relaxed and compliant when they realize your advocate is knowledgeable and collaborative.
For families wanting guidance and coaching, but who think even a collaborative advocate will be disruptive to the team, you can enlist Charting the Course LLC at the hourly rate to review your child’s situation and coach you on ways to improve the outcome of your IEP meetings without the presence of an advocate.
The site cannot and does not contain legal or medical advice. All information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only.