The IEP Team had a Meeting without You.

Let’s be honest, not everyone fully understands the IEP process and what it entails. It’s a complicated beast and can make you scream. I’ve addressed issues similar to this in other posts, but a common theme that I encounter with parents is unrealistic expectations.

What do I mean by this? Well, the internet, social media and parents gossiping often spreads incorrect information. Then, because they have “learned” this, the parent has an expectation of the school, as far as something that should be happening. And, when it doesn’t happen, the parent gets angry or frustrated, and this contributes to often already existing tension among the IEP team.

woman working on computer

Understanding the IEP process and what an individualized education plan is, benefits everyone involved. If you are expecting something to occur that is not going to occur, nor is the school required to do, and it doesn’t happen, it’s important to think about why this did not happen.

One of these common issues is IEP teams meeting without parents. Mind you, for the purposes of this post, I am not talking about your annual IEP meeting. I am talking about formal or informal meeting of staff during the course of the school year, that does not involve parents.

How a parent learns about this varies. Sometimes they are meeting right before an annual meeting and a parent actually sees this meeting taking place. Sometimes it is mentioned to the parent in passing. Other times a parent is directly told “Hey, we met to discuss CHILD and ……” which tends to be very off putting for some parents.

An IEP Meeting without a Parent?

The IEP team is allowed to meet without you. School districts are required to hold an annual IEP meeting with the parent. They are required to make significant effort to not only notify you of this meeting, but accommodate your schedule.

There is nothing in IDEA that requires them to include you in every conversation that occurs about your child–with one, two or all of the other IEP team members.

Look, I get it. The IEP process is frustrating. It can be awful and feel like 12:1 at an IEP meeting.

Think about it–this is their job, their career. Doesn’t it make sense that they would talk about your child more than once a year? I certainly hope so!

Depending on your specific situation, it may be understandable that you would feel that the IEP team is meeting to strategize against you. However, more often than not, this is not the case.

iep team members at an iep meeting at school

Schools regularly have all kinds of meetings for staff. My son’s IEP team meets monthly to discuss him. I am not present for any of these meetings.

You want your team to be actively engaged in trying to meet your child’s needs!

The school district is only bound to one meeting per year with you (with a few exceptions, like if you request one).

They are not required to invite you or even send you the recap of any other meeting about your child that occurs. It is best practice for school staff to meet and discuss students’ progress, with or without an IEP.

Can I require them to invite me to all meetings?

Honestly, I would file this under “battles I’m not gonna fight” for several reasons. One is that it’s not required. The second is that once you make this your focus of contention, then the dispute is focused on this issue and not the IEP itself.

Keep your eyes on the IEP and your child making meaningful progress.

My advice would be to develop a good working relationship with your child’s team. Then, ask about these meetings if you know they are occuring.

My relationship with my son’s teacher is solid enough that I absolutely would feel comfortable emailing her and saying, “Hey, have you guys met about K recently? And did you discuss ABC? Because I’m seeing XYZ here at home, wondering if you’re seeing it…..”

Part of successful IEP advocacy is developing collaborative relationships. Approaching a situation with the mindset of “they’re meeting to plot against me!” is not likely to be fruitful.

If you are having meaningful and effective participation as an IEP team member, it’s likely that the team meeting without you would not bother you at all. Reflect and get to the core issue–because if you feel slighted or ganged up on by the team meeting without you, then there’s more to unpack and fix.

Parents and the IEP Team

I’m not saying that this is necessarily a quick fix. Many staff members have an unhealthy mindset and the reverse philosophy–that every parent is out to get them. This is not true either, but I cannot control the thoughts or actions of others.

I can only control what I do and say and think. Parents are guaranteed rights and participation in the IEP process. The best thing you can do is educate yourself on the process and maximize your participation.

Part of that is not just knowing what you are entitled to, but having a full understand of what is not included as part of IDEA or FAPE.

What is an IEP?

An IEP is an individualized education program suited to a particular child. A child’s parent or classroom teacher may start the conversation to have a child evaluated to see if they need an individualized education plan.

Once this evaluations are complete, an IEP eligibility meeting will be held.

As laid out by IDEA, our nation’s special education statutes, there are certain criteria that must be met in each IEP created if it is determined that a child needs an IEP.

  • The child’s progress and achievements in academic and functional areas. This helps everyone involved see the child’s progress as it pertains to standards as well as their participation in the classroom and with school personnel.
  • Annual goals are developed by the team based upon baselines in the child’s Present Levels section of their IEP. General education teachers, special education teachers, and parents decide on achievable goals for each school year based on the child’s unique needs.
  • It is determined how much of each school day is spent in the general education classroom compared to special education rooms, as well as extracurricular activities and clubs.
  • A child’s requirement to participate in state-wide or standardized tests and whether there are any modifications if they are to take those tests.
  • The IEP also lays out when IEP related services will begin, how often the child will receive them, where they will be provided, and when they will expire.
  • Also important are how the child’s goals are going to be measured. Will they be given tests, will it be based on observations, or something else.

The main goal of an IEP is to provide the appropriate education and related services to the child in question.

Who develops a Child’s IEP?

The IEP team is comprised of key school staff and the child’s parents. Parents are Mandated IEP team Members. The team meets regularly to review assessment information regarding the child and to agree upon goals that the child can achieve. A child’s needs and disabilities are taken into account when creating these IEP goals.

As a parent, it is your right to know IEP Procedural Safeguards.

What are the Steps of the IEP Evaluation Process?

There are several steps to outlining a successful IEP. The first step is identifying that there is a problem and taking notes. Please note that this is not an official step-by-step process defined by IDEA, but what would be a best practice.

Pre-referral: This stage may involve teachers or parents observing the child and documenting things they notice. They might notice a child is having difficulties or challenges with certain tasks in the classroom. This might involve academic or physical tasks and even a learning disability. This is the time to note important information about your child and anything you notice that seems out of the ordinary.

Referral: Depending on the child, they may be referred for an IEP as early as preschool years as parents and teachers begin noticing areas they might be behind. Often, kids who are born with low birth weight, abuse, an accident, or disabilities like a missing arm or Down Syndrome are referred early on. The referral process can be started by anyone who has concerns about a child’s development.

Identification and Eligibility: Identifying a child as eligible for special education comes as a result of thorough, comprehensive evaluations in all areas of suspected disability.

Development of the IEP: During this step, the IEP team, including the parents, creates goals for the child based on the observations and data. The team will work to outline the plan to help the child in their areas of need. You as the parent, as well as other team members like the general education teacher will always be present for this. Once goals are developed from baselines from the evaluations, supports and services are determined.

Implementation of the IEP: Implementing the IEP involves the team deciding when to administer the services and where. It is also determined how long the services will be given in comparison to the rest of the school day. Will the child be in a special education classroom with a special education teacher 100% of the day or only 15% of the day? Things like that. The goal is to get them in the least restrictive environment so they can learn as independently as possible.

iep process flow chart

Evaluations and Regular Reviews: Depending on the goals decided, the team meets quarterly to review goals and make sure the student is meeting those goals. Adjustments are made as needed. Teachers and specialists will most likely take weekly notes to keep track of progress. They will then share the information at meetings.

Taking these steps seriously and slowly results in an effective IEP for your child. While it can seem tedious, it is important to hit all of the steps so the child is cared for in the best way possible.

Parent input is highly valued, as you know your child best.

Purposes and Functions of an IEP

The IEP process is a wonderful way to connect parents with other members of the team. It creates a great line of communication between school administrators, general education teachers, special education teachers, school psychologists, speech therapists and any other team members involved. By working together, the IEP hopefully mitigates any differences between school staff and the parents. The meetings are times to have open discussions about what is best for the child. Keep in mind that the goal of an IEP is to help the child! The child should always be at the heart of the process so put biases aside and think about what your child needs.

What an IEP is NOT

While your child’s strengths and areas of need will be documented during the IEP process, the IEP is not meant to fully outline these things.

The IEP is also not a daily lesson plan, it is a guide to implementing goals. While the goals are for the full year and can be adjusted accordingly by members of the IEP team, they take time. With that being said, an IEP is not instant and requires adjustments at times.

If a strategy isn’t working, the team can opt to alter the goals. An IEP is a ‘living document’ meaning that it can and should be adjusted as the child changes.

Any other questions, search here on the blog or ask in our Facebook group.

To become a phenomenal IEP advocate, consider taking my online training.