IEP 101: How to Prepare and Be Ready to Advocate


Individual Education Plans (IEPs) can be both overwhelming and an opportunity for a parent. As a special education teacher, I see a lot of parents glazed over and obviously nodding their heads simply because they are overwhelmed. As a parent, even with the background knowledge I have, while sitting in my own son’s IEP, I get this feeling of glazing over. Data is being thrown at you, and you’re trying to process it all so quickly.

Here are some tips to help prepare you for your next IEP meeting:



  1. Know your rights as a parent. 
  2. Know who will be in attendance. Which therapists, teachers, administrators?
  3. Create a vision. 
  4. Communicate your concerns to the case manager before the meeting.
  5. Ask for an agenda or rough draft of the IEP before the meeting.
  6. Research accommodations and modifications that YOU think YOUR child would benefit from. Bring your ideas to the table.
  7. Bring someone with you for support– a significant other, a family member, an advocate.
  8. There are A LOT of acronyms in the Special Education world… IEP, FBA, BIP, IDEA, ESY, RED, PWN, ABA… don’t hesitate to ask, “what is ___?” 
  9. You don’t have to sign the Prior Written Notice at the IEP meeting. Go home and reflect first.
  10. Create an IEP Binder for yourself. As a parent, I include the following tabs: IEPs, Evaluations, progress reports, report cards, outside therapist reports, and each specialist/doctor has an individual tab.



Finally, create a list of questions to bring to the table. In the heat of things, you can forget something super simple. Here are some question ideas:


  1. What will my child’s day look like? What do 90 minutes per week on paper look like in reality?
  2. Who will work on those skills with my child– a general education teacher, special education teacher, paraprofessional, therapist, or a combination? Where- in the general education setting or special education setting? And how often?
  3. Will my child be doing grade-level curriculum or alternative curriculum or both?
  4. What does that accommodation look like in the classroom? And, don’t forget– Specials! How will PE, Music, Art, Library, and Computers be modified for my child, and by who?
  5. What can I do at home to support these new goals?


And finally, never be afraid to ask this question multiple times ….

6. Can you explain that again?

So power on IEP mama’s. Advocate and be the voice of your child. You can do this!



  1. I just had my first IEP meeting yesterday for my 4YO son. I didn’t know what to expect, definitely wish I’d read this first! But, still happy to have a path forward. U City conducted our evaluation and I can’t say enough wonderful things about them.

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