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3 Questions I Always Ask the IEP Team by Stephanie Mongiovi

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It is common for parents to feel nervous and unsure when they attend their first IEP meeting, and they do not know what to expect. You walk into a room with various staff from the school who you have not yet been acquainted with, and you end up feeling like a fish out of water. This is all very normal. After 7 long years, I no longer feel like that; being the mother of three students on the Autism Spectrum (who also have other varying exceptionalities, as well), I have made it my business to learn the ropes and how to effectively conduct myself during an IEP meeting. I have learned the best questions to ask.  I prepare myself for each meeting and take notes so that I remember the topics I want to touch on. When given a draft copy of the IEP prior to the meeting, I like to write on sticky notes and place them as a reminder of the areas I have questions and/or concerns about and need to address with the IEP team. There has been lots of information discussed throughout the years, times three; there are 3 common questions I always ask, however - for each of my children, and every single time. 

The first question that I find helpful for every meeting discussing progress or making decisions is:

Where is the data?

Data is of the utmost importance when it comes to discussing a child, and his or her progress, areas of concern, and/or behavior. I have learned during each of these meetings that as a parent, you must remember to ask about the data that supports their decisions for the IEP. Data is constantly being tracked for the purpose of the IEP goals, and you need sufficient data to determine whether the goals are appropriate and/or whether they are working or not. Documentation is a key component in the IEP process, and it should always be reviewed. If you have a concern about the data that you are being presented as the parent, please do not hesitate to ask for further explanation and to review the data that has been collected. 


Next, this is important in both question and in statement form; never forget to: 

Ask for or state in writing what you are requesting from the school 

In terms of accommodations or services, sometimes you will not receive it if you do not specifically ask, so make sure you are clear when making specific requests. And remember, everything should be in writing, this helps for a more prompt reply to the request being made. I have heard the dreaded phrases, such as "Let's wait and see," and "We cannot do that." However, I am not afraid to rebuttal their statement and ask again, and advocate for what my child needs. Be firm and confident in your request and try to not allow yourself to feel intimidated by the process.



How is my child doing, overall? 

I do not expect to hear every detail of my child's day at school from the staff, but I do want to know the basics; such as, how they are doing academically at that time, if they are handling their day okay, and/or if they feel overwhelmed; how they are managing peer interaction and/or conflict, and do you see improvement in the challenging area?. I strongly believe that it is crucial to ask about your child, as an individual, during the IEP meeting so that you have a better understanding of what is being discussed by the IEP team. As parents, we really do know our children best, and we usually notice things before anyone else, so feel free to ask about their progress at school to stay an equally informed member of the team.

I feel so passionately about encouraging others about the world of IEPs,  and special education. I enjoy discussing the ins and outs and explaining what to expect to other parents who are new to the IEP process. I have found that it takes practice to develop the skills needed as the parent, to successfully navigate through an IEP meeting and become the best advocate you can be for your child. Sometimes, to get the information you’re really asking for we need to practice asking the appropriate questions, so educating ourselves is necessary. 


About the Author:

Stephanie Mongiovi is an IEP/Autism Advocate, with an Autism/Special Needs Segment, "Sincerely, Stephanie,". She has three children with ASD that came up with their own business idea that they recently implemented, called "Sensory Kids, On-the-Go!" They make/sell homemade sensory bottles, "The Sensory Mom Starter Pack" to-go bags, and other fun-filled activities/fidgets for all sensory kids!

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If you liked this and want more IEP strategies, then you’ll love these episodes of the Special Education Inner Circle podcast: 




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