Parents and students who go to meetings prepared and organized are more likely to come away feeling heard and with a good action plan. This article can help you and your student prepare a one-page handout to share with the school or another service provider. Most important is to highlight the student as the most important person at the meeting—even if he/she isn’t ready to attend in person!
If a young person is ready to lead all or part of a meeting, PAVE encourages this! Understanding the Individualized Education Program (IEP) and facilitating an IEP meeting is a great way to build lifelong skills and confidence. See PAVE’s article: Attention Teens: You Can Lead Your IEP Meeting.
For a student who isn’t ready or able to attend the IEP meeting, helping to prepare a document can be a great way to participate. Note that this form can be adapted for any service delivery meeting at school or in a childcare or medical setting.
Keep your handout short to highlight your most important points. This handout brings your child and your concerns to the attention of the group and sets a tone for the meeting that is child- and family-centered.
Note: You can send your handout to the school before the meeting, so team members have a chance to read it in advance. If there isn’t time to distribute it before the meeting, you can take a moment when you arrive at the meeting to hand out your one-pager and encourage everyone to take a few moments to read it.
The top of your handout should include your contact information and other basics about the meeting. Your handout will become part of the official meeting record, so get formal and include all of this:
- Parent Name: Jane Hearmenow
- Phone/email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Meeting Date/Time: XX/XX/XXXX, 3-5 pm
- Location: Anywhere Elementary
- Topic: IEP Review, Evaluation Review, Section 504 Plan, Re-entry after Discipline, Medical provider appointment, etc.
Next you want to highlight what makes your child awesome. This is also a place where your child can voice his/her own opinions and “self-advocate” for accommodations or help. Here are sentence starters that might help you create bullet points or a paragraph about your child:
- NAME enjoys…
- He is motivated when…
- She’s interested in…
- He wants more help in the area of…
- She said she likes school the most when …
- He says teachers are helpful when they…
- She says she wants to learn more about …
Include a Photograph!
A photograph of your child shows the Very Important Person (VIP) and can make everyone smile as the meeting starts.
The final section of your handout describes your concerns. You may need to start on scratch paper with a longer list and then edit to prioritize your key points. Remember that you want the team members to be able to read your handout quickly. You also want this list to help track your priorities at the meeting. If it gets too long, you won’t be able to use it as a handy reference.
Here is a sample short paragraph to get you started, and your introductory paragraph can be followed by key bullet points:
My son/daughter’s disability in the area of [briefly describe the condition] makes school difficult because… My biggest concern is that …
My primary topics for today’s meeting include:
- A need that isn’t being met
- A communication or behavior challenge
- Something you want to change because it isn’t working
- A goal that isn’t being met
- Something working well that needs further development
- Anything else concerning
If you or a support person takes notes at the meeting, it’s great to conclude by making a list of Action Items. Make a simple chart to list:
- The agreement/action
- Name of person responsible
- Communication plan, so you have follow-through
If your meeting is part of a formal special education process, such as an IEP meeting, the school provides parents with a letter called a Prior Written Notice (PWN) to reflect agreements and discussion at the meeting. Your handout and notes provide checks and balances with the school’s PWN and guarantees that your concerns and those of your student are part of that formal meeting record.
The website of the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) provides information about PWN requirements for schools in Washington. According to OSPI, “Prior Written Notice is a document outlining important school district decisions about your student’s special education program. It is not a meeting invitation. School districts must provide you with Prior Written Notice after a decision has been made regarding matters affecting your student’s IEP or eligibility for special education, but before any decision is implemented or changes to your student’s program take place.
“Prior Written Notice must be provided in your native language or other mode of communication that you understand.”
The Parent Input Form for a Meeting with the School is here for easy download. If a download is not possible, all the information is above. If you need any support with this form, please email PAVE