Does it matter what you wear to an IEP meeting? Yes.
“I have an IEP meeting tomorrow, should I dress as a Storm Trooper?” Uh, no. No, you should not. One of my friends asked that on Facebook a while back.
It matters. I wish it didn’t, but it does. We are a society who judges people based upon their appearance, particularly first impressions. It’s why there are entire books and magazines devoted to what to wear to a job interview or a college interview. We stress out the first time we meet a boyfriend’s parents, right? It’s no different for IEP meetings. What you wear to an IEP meeting matters.
I’ve said it before-even though this is your child, your baby, your love, and light of your life, the IEP meeting is a business meeting and should be treated as such. You wouldn’t wear sweatpants to a business meeting, would you? Flip flops?
Why it matters what you wear to an IEP meeting:
- It is usually the only time that the entire IEP team is together.
- Most of all, this is a business meeting. You need to dress for a business meeting.
- Usually, it is the largest block of time that you will spend with IEP team members.
- While you likely are the only person present who is not being paid to be there, you want to visually position yourself at the professional level.
- You are an expert, you are the best expert there on the child. Look the part.
- Wearing something that you love and you know you look good in will increase your confidence.
- For some members of the team, this is the only interaction that you will have with them all year. What impression do you want to give?
Now, here’s my disclaimer: This is a blog for IEP advice. That’s all this is-IEP advice based on my personal experiences as a special education advocate. This is in no way meant to shame parents or stress parents out. I get it. Sometimes you have to come right from work, so you might be wearing scrubs, a fast food uniform or something else. It happens, that’s life. I also focused this on inexpensive items and I personally have recently purchased similar items (sweaters) at my own Goodwill store for $2. If you have the time and the situation allows for it, I would bring a change of clothes with you to work.
How I choose IEP meeting clothes:
My entire life, because it appeals to me and because I am painfully practical. I choose boring, classic clothing. Lots of solids in neutral blues, reds, tans. I use a bracelet or a scarf to add a pop of color if I need to.
3 Cs of IEP meeting attire
- Comfortable-You may be sitting for a few hours and you want to be able to focus on your child. You may have to go through security at some schools. Maybe you have to walk a great distance in heavy rain, extreme cold or extreme heat. You want to be comfortable. Now is not the time to try something new or something that you know needs to be adjusted.
- Competent-You want to look professional and knowledgeable. You don’t want flashy and distracting. You don’t want “hey I’m a stay at home mom who wears yoga pants and ponytails” look. Everyone around the table, it is their job to be there. You need to project this as this is your job too. You are an expert at the table, an expert on your child.
- Classic-Classic colors and classic styles never go out of style. It’s consistent, it’s understated, it doesn’t draw attention away from you as a person, as some other flashy or trendy outfits might.
My favorite stores to shop for IEP meetings:
- Goodwill: yes, Goodwill! Granted, you have to have the time and desire to really hunt and pick through their racks, but the payoffs can be amazing. Last week my local store had a sale and I got sweaters from the Gap, Ann Taylor and Talbot’s for $2 each.
- Sears: I love Sears, particularly Lands End. Lands End has amazing online sales and you can do returns at your local Sears. I love both Sears and Lands End because I’m not tall but have long legs, so I need talls. They have them! And petites and other hard to find sizes.
- JCPenney: I don’t know why people don’t like this store, I always have tremendous success there. JCPenney has fantastic sales and coupons, I love their line of yoga wear (for the days I am staying at home!) and they have classic styles. I love some of their house brands and I still love Liz Claiborne stuff, which they carry. They also carry talls, petites and hard to find sizes.
Preparing for an IEP meeting:
This is a big deal! I’ll be the first to say that the IEP meeting is not and should not be the end all, be all of the IEP process. But it is a significant time in the process.
- Clear your schedule for 48 hours if possible. The day before and the day of the IEP meeting. No social commitments, no volunteering, nothing that will keep you out late or distract you.
- Lay out your clothes the night before. Make sure that buttons are all there, things are ironed, you have both earrings, things fit and so on.
- Try it on. Make sure it’s comfortable. Nothing can stress you out like being late because you couldn’t find anything to wear!
It’s a business meeting. Prepare for it like you would a job interview. Know your material and know what you’re going to ask for. Good luck, you’ve got this!
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