1. Read last year's IEP - It's important to review what came out of last year's plan. Was it successful ? Did methods of instruction work ? Did measurement process used really tell you if progress was being made ? Were goals & objectives really functional for your child? Also try to think back to actual meeting -- what part of discussion did you feel least prepared for ? Remembering will help you prepare better this time around!
2. Update your advocacy notebook -- Hopefully you have a single book that allows you to keep all of your child's information (evaluations, old IEPs, correspondence with school & service providers, etc.) organized & easily accessible. If there is new information from Dr.'s, teachers, or related service providers that needs added to your book take care of filing now. You'll be glad to have most current information if issue comes up during meeting.
3. Do your homework -- is there any new information on your child's disability, have you heard about any promising new intervention strategies that caught your attention? Now is time to check them out. Research them on internet or contact a local resource person who can tell you more or provide you with information to review.
4. Come prepared to "grow" your team -- If you've found anything interesting during your research, IEP meeting is an excellent time to share this information. Rather than contacting everyone individually or relying on 1 person to pass on your information, you can share it with everyone at once. If information describe an intervention strategy you would like used in this year's IEP then be sure to bring copies so everyone can look over information at once during meeting. Few professional team members are going to be willing to sign off on something they don't understand or feel comfortable with. By helping them learn, you maximize your chances of getting what you want.
5. Make your list -- Once you're organized & your research is complete is time to make your list. What are issues you feel like really need to be addressed in your child's IEP. Remember other team members may want to add additional items during your discussion, but you don't want to be thinking afterwards, "Oh I really wanted to discuss X & forgot to bring it up." Right now, while you're calm & not under time pressure is time to decide what issues are from your perspective.
6. Prioritize -- Because IEPs are a team process they by their very nature demand compromise. So once you've developed you list, you'll need to go back through & divide it into 2 categories.
A) issues that are non-negotiable to me -- they must be addressed for me to give my consent for this IEP and B) issues that I am concerned about, but I'm not sure how I want them addressed or what critical components are. On these issues I'm willing to compromise or settle for minimal supports while we gather more information.