Questions That Parents Should Ask at the IEP Table by Lindsey ProutyJul 11, 2022
As you walk into the parking lot of your child’s school after their IEP meeting, your brain feels like mush and you ask yourself, “Wait, where did I park?”. You get in the car, turn on the AC, and think “Oh darn, I didn’t ask about x,y,z” or “Wait, what does 7 out of 10 trials even mean?”.
Whether it’s your first IEP meeting or you are a veteran parent at the table, IEP meetings are stressful and often overwhelming. There can be so much jargon that you may not understand and the topic of your child’s differences are not always easy to discuss.
You sit there at the table listening to each expert talk about your child’s needs, the teacher says something like, “how does that sound to you?”, you shake your head in agreement, but you’re not really sure what you are agreeing to. “Do I even really have a say about how you are going to teach my child?”
Take time before the IEP meeting to formulate some questions to discuss with the team at your upcoming meeting. Think about things like: What concerns have been on your mind? You can brainstorm some questions about these concerns and write these down. Be sure to bring these notes to the meeting, and leave room to take notes on each question.
And if you really don’t know where to start, here are some guiding questions you can ask at the IEP table:
“What is the purpose of this meeting?”
Obviously, the purpose of the meeting is to discuss your child’s IEP. Right? If you are not familiar with the special education process, there could be a few reasons why this particular meeting is being held.
Go ahead and ask this question before the meeting if you can. You should be sent a meeting notice about when the IEP will be held. Within this meeting notice, you should also have been informed about the purpose of the meeting. If you need further clarification on the purpose of the meeting, send an email to your child’s teacher or service provider asking for additional details. When you are aware of the type of meeting being held, you can gather any information or support you may need going into the meeting.
“Can you explain why you chose that goal for my child?”
An IEP is to be individualized. Each goal, service, and accommodation must serve your child’s unique needs. During the meeting, the service provider will begin discussing your child’s present levels and weaknesses in a particular area and then state the proposed goal.
The important factor here is that it pertains to your child’s unique needs, that you understand what the team is saying, and the “why” this goal was chosen makes sense to you.
“What does my child’s day look like? Who is providing these services and where within the school setting?”
By asking this question, you will have some insight into your child’s day and how the IEP will be put into action. Think who, what, when, where, why.
Who is working with your child? There’s a chance it’s not just the child’s teacher. It could be a paraprofessional, therapist or other support person. If your child has medical needs, the nurse may not be at the school each day, so be sure to clarify the needs and plan at the meeting.
What is your child working on? What services will your child be receiving on a weekly basis?
When? Your child will receive a determined amount of minutes per each service being provided. They can happen all on one day or spread out through the week or even throughout the month.
Where? There are a variety of settings where your child could receive these support services. Find out where your child will be throughout the day. They may spend time in the general education classroom or could be pulled out throughout the day for small group work or even 1:1.
Why? Ask why these different factors were chosen. For example, maybe 15 minutes twice a week for occupational therapy services is more appropriate than one 30 minute session a week because your child has a short attention span.
“Has my child’s placement for special education services changed?”
After the team has discussed all of your child’s needs and how they will serve those needs through services and accommodations, the team, including you, will determine the placement for these services. Even if the child’s placement will not change, it should be discussed annually where the child will spend most of their school day.
“Can you repeat that? I don’t think I understand.”
A basic question, but if something doesn’t make sense or the team is using special education jargon, just ask them to clarify. No one expects parents to know all the “ins and outs” of special education. Your role is to bring the parent perspective to the table, not to have a specialized degree in special education. Don’t feel bad about not knowing.
These are just a few questions to ask. Maybe they will help you formulate your own questions if you do not know where to begin. During the IEP meeting, the conversation should naturally flow as each part of the IEP is discussed. As you go through each section, you can simply ask what the meaning of that section is and how it will facilitate your child’s educational plan.
About the Author:
As a former special education teacher, Lindsey Prouty saw the frustration that many parents dealt with while advocating for their children. Now that she is a mom herself, her teaching has shifted to empowering parents at the IEP table.
If you liked this and want more IEP strategies, then you’ll love these episodes of the Special Education Inner Circle podcast:
- #135: 3 Decisions Every Great IEP Team Needs to Make
- #124: Reminder About Choosing Special Education Placements
- #90: When Teachers Needs More IEP Input from Parents
Write Better IEP Goals. Reduce IEP Conflict.