Getting Ready for Your Annual IEP Meeting

By Regina Skyer

Today is officially the first day of spring, which means more sunshine, budding flowers, Passover and Easter Holidays, state tests, private school acceptances… and annual CSE/IEP review meetings. Here are some strategies for how to get ready for yours.

Scheduling your meeting. The responsibility to schedule and hold the annual CSE/IEP meeting lies solely with the school district if your child already has an IEP or if a parent has requested a meeting in writing and has proof of that request. This includes “turning five students” who are aging out of CPSE and into CSE. Parents do not have to contact their CSE to schedule a meeting, but they must fully cooperate and respond to notices sent by the district. You are entitled to five days advance notice of your review meeting. If you don’t receive proper notice, you can postpone the meeting.  

Get organized. I recommend parents create their own “CSE file.” Doing this the first year requires the most work. You can use an accordion folder or a big binder, whatever you prefer. Create the following sections and arrange the contents within these sections chronologically, with the most recent documents at the front:

  • Prior IEPs, IFSPs
  • Independent Evaluations: May include neuropsychological or psychoeducational evaluations and any other evaluations you had done.
  • School District Observations and Evaluations: Make a request to receive copies of these in advance of the meeting so you can review them.
  • School and Provider Progress Reports
  • Relevant Medical Reports and Health Forms: May include regular school health form, developmental pediatrician report, specialist report, pediatrician medical form on busing or other medical needs.
  • Correspondence: Printed copies of all emails, letters sent between yourself and school officials.
  • Parent Notes: Your handwritten or typed notes from relevant phone conversations, classroom observations, school tours, etc.

Gather your people. As needed, arrange for independent evaluators, a family member or a friend to support you and take notes, and providers currently working with your child to attend the IEP meeting. Remember to give the team notice of anyone you plan to bring with you. Participants can also call in by phone or submit letters for the team to review and consider. If a child has a health issue that impacts on their education there is an option to have a physician member present at the IEP meeting, but you must make this request in writing 72 hours in advance. There are specific instances where we might recommend that your attorney attend, like when a child has been accepted to an approved private school, or if a parent is completely overwhelmed by the process.

Participate in the meeting. You will be asked to sign an attendance sheet and you must do this. This is not an agreement with the IEP or a placement/program recommendation. You will mostly be listening, but when you do speak, present an accurate picture of your child. If you submitted an independent evaluation, make sure that everyone on the team has reviewed it. If not, suggest that the group takes a few minutes to do so. Whatever happens, don’t be adversarial. Listen to the team’s position and ideas and then state yours. At all times you must be open to what the team recommends—but that doesn’t mean you have to accept their recommendation.

Document what happened. As soon as possible after the meeting, write up notes from the meeting. The more detail here the better. If you end up suing then these notes will be important in drafting the notice for your complaint and the hearing request.

Breathe, but be prepared. This is the most critical component. Every case is unique, and there is no singular formula for success. If you are a client at our firm your case manager and attorney will happily prepare you for your CSE review meeting the week before the actual meeting.  Call Ben in our office to arrange a time for this conversation.