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If you are the parent of a child with special needs, you already know that a meeting is required at least once a year with school officials to discuss your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).

Education is one of the most important things in a child’s life, so it pays to be prepared. What specifically should parents do to prepare?

-Familiarize yourself with the parents’ rights handbook that is provided by the school. Understand the protections under federal law available to you and your child.

-Look over your child’s school records ahead of time. Take note of how he is doing and where his strengths and weaknesses lie.

-Visit the classroom setting if possible.

-Talk with disability associations and other parents for more information and tips.

-Speak with your child ahead of time to learn about any special challenges or concerns.

-Write down any questions you have for school officials so you don’t forget during the give and take of the meeting.

-Review the previous IEP. What is working? What is not? Are there new goals that need to be set or adjusted for the upcoming year?

-If you have concerns, gather evidence to support them. Explain why you want changes.

-Have a positive attitude. An IEP meeting is part of a collaborative process between parents and the school district. Try to work with school officials as much as possible.

-Most of all, organize your thoughts and related documents. Make sure you are prepared when the day of the meeting arrives.

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