Preparing in Advance for an IEP Meeting

Kelley Coleman, writer and proud special needs mom, discusses her experience with the IEP process.

We recently held our second virtual IEP meeting for our son in under a year. He’s a 7-year-old with multiple disabilities at an LAUSD school, with needs ranging from academic to therapeutic to behavioral to medical. And, I actually enjoyed the meeting. While I don’t know that we’ll ever settle an IEP in the room, what I do know is this: I set the tone for the meetings. And I do that with a ton of preparation.

Because several parents have asked what I do to prepare for IEP meetings, I wanted to share my checklist:

  1. Request everything in advance. Get copies of assessments, goals, and anything else that will be discussed. When you read in advance, you will be able to take your time, make notes, and not feel the pressure of a room full of people staring at you.
  2. Make notes and write down questions. Write all over the document they give you, pull out some highlighters, and keep a list of questions. This way, you will be sure that everything that needs to be discussed is covered and planned for your child.
  3. Connect with your team members in advance of the IEP meeting. In informal meetings or phone calls, I ask questions about existing goals, suggest possible new goals, clarify everything that I don’t fully understand, and occasionally nitpick grammar. In very contentious situations, I skip this step but have found that team members appreciate that I took the time to connect with them.
  4. Know your desired outcome. If you can explain why your child needs specific placement, services, and supports in order to receive an appropriate education, your child is much more likely to get an appropriate education. Remember, goals drive services. If your child’s goals do not warrant what you ask for, then you need to take another look at the goals. If you truly don’t know your desired outcome, this can come out of connecting with the team members in advance of the meeting, and with honest discussions about your child’s current progress and placement.
  5. Determine if the team in the IEP room has the authority to say yes. In many IEP meetings, I have said, “I am asking for XYZ for my child. If you were to agree that my child needs XYZ, do you have the authority to approve this?” Ask this question in the room if you do not know in advance. While it doesn’t mean they will necessarily offer you what you’re requesting, it lets you know if it’s worth digging in with the team in the room or if you will need to go beyond this meeting to get an appropriate education for your child.


We are fortunate that we genuinely like our school team and believe they have our son’s best interests at heart. At a previous school, our meetings were contentious, tense, and just plain awful. But I’ve learned that regardless of who is in the room, I need to set the tone. And I sincerely hope that this list will empower others to do the same.

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