This article addresses how to prepare your child to participate in their meetings. For more information on preparing for the meeting as a parent, visit Understood.org for their IEP Bootcamp.
After the assessment is complete, we will ask the school to meet to discuss the results. For our purposes, this will most likely be an IEP or 504 meeting. It can be very helpful and empowering for your student to participate in their meeting, and it is incredibly useful to educators to hear the student’s perspective.
At what age should I involve my child?
Students of any age may participate in at least a part of the meeting. Many younger elementary school students (5 years – 10 years old) may only be present for the first part of the meeting, while Middle and High School students may be invited for the whole meeting. While I will give recommendations here, please make decisions based on your child’s willingness and ability to participate, and talk to team members to get their opinion on what level of participation will be most useful.
How can I prepare my child to attend a meeting?
Tip #1: Have you child make a list of their strengths and progress
Almost every type of school meeting begins with a review of the child’s strengths and the progress they’ve made since the last meeting or over the past year. Ask your child to make their own list of their strengths or ways they’ve grown. These may be different from the adults’ view – it’s incredibly important to hear both!
It’s also worth noting that children are often very “black and white”. They have a hard time understanding that they could be both “smart” and “struggling” at the same time. For a student who often needs help or correction, it is incredibly important for them to sit at a table where everyone is telling them how awesome they are!
Tip #2: Ask your child to think about what teachers or school staff do that is most helpful, and what they do that is least helpful.
Your child has been receiving all kinds of help – some helpful help, and some not-so-helpful help – from teachers and other staff at the school. This is their chance to let school staff know what feels most supportive, and what is not working. With your child’s voice and thoughts in the room, the team can troubleshoot and problem solve to find the best ways to truly support your child in overcoming their difficulties.
Helping your child articulate what is and is not helpful is also a way to teach effective self-advocacy skills. Writing these down and rehearsing the language they use may be important for some children to make sure they are speaking in a respectful and constructive way.
Tip #3: Help your child practice describing how they learn
During a part of the meeting, we will present the results of the assessment. The results essentially answer the following question:
How does this child learn, and how we can teach them better?
During our assessment, your child and I have talked about the way they learn, so that they can advocate for themselves moving forward. Many children will need some practice explaining this to their teachers: it may be helpful to write it down so they have a reference point. Their description may sound like this:
I’m really good a learning from what I see. Sometimes it’s hard for me to understand what people say if it’s too much at once. It’s easiest for me to learn when you can show me while you tell me.
In other words: a strength, a challenge, and a way the school can help.
Hearing this statement from the child’s mouth can be the most powerful part of the meeting. After that, we just fill in the details.
What can I do to support my child after the meeting?
Tip #4: Take one thing from the meeting that your child can carry forward
Depending on your child’s age, they may understand more or less of the meeting. As a parent, you can be most helpful by identifying one thing you thought was really important, and make sure your child understands it. Since it is likely that a lot of ground was covered, it may be overwhelming for your child. Bringing the focus in on one most important take-away can help them feel empowered and accomplished moving forward.
What if I have “adults-only” questions?
Tip #5: Create an exit strategy
Depending on your child’s age, the complexity of the meeting, and their ability to understand the various elements, it may be appropriate to excuse them at some point. Most children will be very relieved to leave, especially if the meeting is taking a long time.
Talk with your team and let your child know ahead of time which parts are important for them to attend, and which parts they do not need to be there for. As they get older, they will attend more and more of these meetings, until it becomes their responsibility to sign the IEP for themselves!
Tip #6: Don’t be afraid to ask for a 2-part meeting, and involve your child in Part 2
As a final note, these meetings are hard and often overwhelming for the parents, too. You are listening to a team talk about what is hard for your child – which is difficult in and of itself. You may wish to have a “Part 1” of the meeting where you have a chance to speak to the team, ask your own questions, and process their answers. Then, you may feel more relaxed and able to support your child in “Part 2”, where you focus on making sure their voice is heard and that they understand how the school will support them moving forward.
Want to strategize more specifically for involving your own child in their education? Contact me below!