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IEP Meetings: How to Prepare for Them -- and Manage Them -- Successfully

by Karen F. Edler and Katie Razin
Always prepare for any meeting with the IEP Team and/or the CST Team.

Create an IEP Binder to organize your child's documents:

  • Purchase a large (4-5") three ring binder with plastic cover for insert
  • Use tabbed dividers for each section
  • Sections: IEPs, Evaluations, Grades, Progress Reports & NJ Ask or other district wide standardized test results
  • Progress charts – using the data from reevaluations and/or district wide standardized testing develop charts that evidence if your child progressed from one year or evaluation to the next
  • Insert a picture of your Child on the front to use to refocus the meeting if necessary

Notify your case manager at least 24 hours prior to the meeting that you will be TAPING the meeting.

Be non-confrontational; use the "Columbo Approach" or quizzical approach to make your point.

Request copies of any evaluation reports prior to the meeting. Review and understand them prior to the meeting. Seek help in interpreting them if needed.

Both parents should attend the meeting. You are also entitled to bring other people to the meeting provided you let your case manager know prior to the meeting.

Read and listen to everything district says about your child it may support your position. Then ask questions to ferret out answers, e.g. "I'm confused I thought her last progress report indicated that Julie was regressing in reading so isn't this the wrong time to stop her Wilson reading program?"

NEVER, EVER sign the IEP at CST meeting you have 15 days to review it and respond.

"STAY PUT" - IF the district proposes to change your child's PLACEMENT or PROGRAMMING and you DON'T want it changed you have 15 days from the date you received the district's written notice of the change (may be separate Notice in Lieu of IEP or may be the IEP) to file for due process/mediation. If you file during the 15 days your child's existing IEP STAYS in place until the due process petition is resolved.

IEP: Individualized Education Program

An IEP is a LEGAL CONTRACT for the implementation and delivery of your child's individualized special education programming and related services. One must be developed for every student found eligible for special education services.

The IEP should determine, based on all the current information about student including review of academic achievement and functional performance, an appropriate program designed to remediate and accommodate the student's needs.

The IEP must contain a statement of your child's current academic and functional performance, i.e., grades, standardized test scores, classroom teacher's description of performance in class, statement of social and emotional functioning in school.

The IEP must contain a comprehensive description/listing of the services to be provided to the child, i.e. use of aide, assistive technology, therapies (speech, occupational, and physical therapy). The District should also be clear in detailing what additional in-class teaching techniques or classroom modifications will be utilized by the teacher/aides/staff to accommodate the child.

The IEP must contain individual goals and objectives designed to remediate your child's deficits:

  • Goals are long term, e.g. "Julie will improve her reading skills from a K.10 level to a 1.4 level by the end of this year"
  • Objectives are short term, e.g. "Julie will decode single syllable words accurately"
  • BUT measurable criteria must be provided e.g. "Julie will decode single syllable words accurately 4 out of 5 times" is a measurable objective.

An appropriate placement for your child should be determined AFTER appropriate programming is developed, not the other way around. The IEP is developed at IEP meeting (discussed below) and the parents, who are members of the IEP Team, should attend, participate and provide written parental concerns to the district for incorporation into the IEP.

  • The district must incorporate your parental concerns exactly as you write them.
  • Remember your audience: the people teaching your child. Keep it to a page and discuss your concerns about your child not your disputes with your IEP Team
District must obtain parental consent prior to implementing the INITIAL IEP and prior to any amendment to the IEP if done without an IEP Meeting. The district does NOT need your consent to implement any other IEP. It is effective after the expiration of the 15 days.

Legal Disclaimer:
The information contained in this guide is general information and may or may not reflect current legal developments. It is provided with the understanding that the authors cannot render legal or other professional advice without reviewing the specific set of facts pertinent to each individual case.

Karen F. Edler is a New Jersey based attorney and parent of special needs child, who assists parents negotiate with their school district and understand their children's rights under federal and state law. She can be reached at: or at:

Kate Razin is a New Jersey based attorney and sibling of a special needs child, who practices in the field of special education law providing parents with the tools needed to advocate for their children's rights under federal and state law. She can be reached at: or at:

Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.


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