skip to Main Content

Set Up an IEP Meeting for Success!

You are at the head of that long, oak table in the conference room. Among the participants, the principal, a general education teacher, and two concerned parents. The table is strewn about with stacks of papers, pens, data, and a copy of “Whose IDEA is This?”. As you trace your eyes over the title, you think to yourself, yeah, whose idea was this anyways?

I have participated in over 600 IEP meetings. Let’s address the elephant in the room: IEP meetings can be awkward. They can be stuffy, tense, and exhausting.
A parent once told me they would rather have a root canal than be there for the IEP meeting. A ROOT CANAL!
It doesn’t have to be this way, follow this plan to organize an enjoyable meeting:

Reframe Your Mind

First: reframe your mind. The IEP meeting is not a battleground. It is not a school yard. It is a collaborative, team approach necessary for a special education student to receive a free and appropriate public education.
So, let’s establish some ground rules on both sides of the table: no name calling (yes, I’ve seen it), no sighing, no rolling of the eyes, no accusations!
Mutual respect is the key to setting up an IEP meeting staff and parents want to attend.
Establish mutual respect and you will earn trust. Gain trust, and you will engage and empower parents, students, and teachers in a true, effective, collaborative approach to education.


Before you even pick up the phone to agree on the meeting date, do your homework. Talk to teachers, review progress, look over educational history, the most recent IEP, and the most recent ETR. Jot down some notes, and come up with a broad vision for the next IEP. If you are anything like me, you know the kids on your caseload better than your own kids sometimes. This step shouldn’t take long.



Think about a time you were in a meeting at work when the person you were meeting with seemed unprepared. They stumbled over their words. They spoke without conviction and without confidence. Now think of a time you had a meeting at work where the person was amply prepared. They could answer any question you had and they anticipated questions before you even asked them. They probably spoke confidently as well. Who did you trust more?

Being amply prepared yields trust. Parents are putting their child’s education in your hands. Prove you are responsible enough to take care of it.

Ask Good Questions

When it is time to pick up the phone to schedule the meeting you will also want to present your loose plan and ask a couple of really good questions. The two questions I like to ask are:

What do you think is going well this school year (or if it is an IEP at the beginning of the year– what went well last school year?

What are some of your concerns this school year?

This is the crucial part– actively listen. Don’t interject your wisdom. We are therapists– it is our nature to want to save the world with our therapy brains! Wait. You will have your time. The floor belongs to your parents in this step.


At our clinics I work with many families whose children are also receiving services in the schools. Due to the rapport that comes naturally in the clinic setting, it isn’t uncommon for parents to bring IEPs to me and ask my opinion.
The one thing I hear repeatedly: “They just don’t listen to me at that school.”
Translation: They don’t value my opinion about my own child.
Actively listening with empathy confirms with the parents that you also want what’s is best for their child. It also shows that you value their opinions, that you don’t have an agenda, and that you want to work together as a team.
To give a sports analogy (it is an IEP team, right?); teams have owners. The parents are the owners of the IEP team. Therefore, they have the most important insights. It is not our job to preach, it is our job to guide and educate. Asking those questions should allow you to solidify your plan. It will also allow you to anticipate any questions that may come about in the actual meetings.


What it looks like:

Hi _____,This is Matt, the SLP from <school district>. It is that time of the year again when we sit down to schedule <students> IEP. Would <day, date, time> work for a meeting?
I also wanted to talk to you about progress and goals. I met with his teachers and have reviewed everything going on with his therapy. I am thinking X, Y, and Z based on this information. But, before I put that in the IEP, I wanted to get some feedback from you first. What do you think is going well this year? ….. (Listen)…  What are some concerns you have?….(listen)…
I appreciate you taking the time to help me to understand some of the things you are seeing on your end. This information will really help me formulate a solid plan for <student>. Would it be okay to send the draft on <date> via email?

The Teacher Chat

You have completed the prep and now you should have a solid plan. Take all of this information back to your teachers, especially the one who will be attending the meeting. Make sure you get all of their questions and concerns addressed and you are on the same page.



There is nothing worse than a rogue teacher at an IEP meeting. Just like you want to earn the respect and be on the same team as a parent, the same goes for the teacher. They care about their students and their opinions are very important. A  synchronized teacher/therapist team is the best!


What it looks like:

Hi ____,
I just got off the phone with Mrs. ____. I told her everything we discussed and she told me about X, Y, Z. Based on what we had in mind and what she is thinking, I think we can make Q, R, S, work and that it would be a solid plan for ______. What do you think?

The Draft

Finally, it is time to write your draft. If you thoroughly completed all the steps above, your draft should end up being pretty darn close to the official document. Make sure you are using parent friendly language and your goals and objectives are clear. If you aren’t sure, try the stranger test:
Take out the names and read the goals to someone unrelated to the case. If they can make sense of it, you’re okay.
*When the draft is complete, I prefer to send it via email to avoid it getting lost in the book bag vortex.
*if you have the security capabilities within your email to do so. Otherwise, sending home in sealed folder with an email to the parent to be on the lookout works great.

What it looks like:

Dear _____, Attached is the IEP draft for our meeting on day, month time at location. I am hoping it reflects our discussions and the discussions that I had with the educational team here at school. If you should have any questions before the meeting, please reach out. Otherwise, I will see you on Day, at time.

Tie a Ribbon on it!

If you effectively set up the IEP meeting, all that should be left to do when you actually meet is to tie a ribbon on it! When you take the time to appropriately set up an IEP meeting, you will find the meetings more positive, and the parents, teachers, and staff will walk away feeling encouraged and determined to make this IEP the best yet!


I’d love to hear from you!


Parents, what do you appreciate about your educational team when they are preparing an IEP for your child?


Therapists, what are some of the helpful things you do when preparing an IEP meeting?


Administrators, are there any policies that your school district has put in place that help make IEP meetings run smoothly?




Back To Top

Patient Reviews

LLA Therapy

Patient Reviews

Crystal Scheibe

Great place, glad we found them. Been going to Medina over 2 months now and he loves Lauryn and Kyler. Wish they had more ABA therapy places available... live in Wooster and long drive everyday.

Karrie Swan LaRock

My 11 year old son has dyslexia and has made noticeable gains in working At LLA THERAPY. Katie is strong in her approach toward him and also keeps him comfortable enough to perform well. We will continue visiting both the Fairlawn and Hudson offices and recommend them highly.

Ron Monroe

My 9 year old just completed about 9 months of weekly speech sessions (due to his stuttering) with Matt Hagge at LLA and we are thrilled with the experience and results. What I thought might be a negative (what kid really wants to go to speech class?) was made very positive by Matt, and my son never hesitated or complained when we talked about class. He really enjoyed it and really took what Matt taught him to heart. His speech has been greatly improved and we definitely recommend LLA. Thank you so much!

Heather Dougherty-Pantoja

My son’s Occupational Therapist, Jess, is an amazing OT! She gives practical tips on working with my son at home and school!

Terri Apgar

I cannot say enough good things about LLA Therapy. My daughter was a client of Teal Simmons’ for approximately 2 years and was just released from speech therapy! She was diagnosed with Apraxia in 2015 and worked with Teal twice a week. Through Teal’s application of PROMPT therapy, my daughter had age-appropriate speech after one year. All of the staff we interacted with at LLA were absolutely wonderful. They really care about what they do and making sure your child achieves their goals.

Kelli Geisler Davisson

LLA Therapy has been an excellent experience for my son as well as my family! My son always asks, "When can I go see Ms. Jeannine again, is it Monday??" He has also made huge gains in only 5 months! I would highly recommend LLA and have already shared my experience with friends looking for services!

Victoria Hansford-Price

We are so grateful for our Speech Therapist Ms.Teal. We have seen a great improvement with our sons confidence and communication abilities since we have started "Prompt" therapy. What we love the most about LLA and Ms. Teal is that Kohl feels comfortable and relaxed which has played a critical role in his progress. Thank you Ms. Teal for all you have done.

Laura Lee Hogsett

They have helped in numerous ways. Speech, OT and behavioral. I've had numerous compliments on my son's progress thanks in very large part to LLA. I would recommend LLA before I recommend our local children's hospitals, though they are good, they don't have the staff that LLA does.

Amy Furukawa

We had a great experience with Matt Hagge at LLA! Our Middle School age son was becoming very conscious of his voice, which is nasal due to a cleft palate. Matt helped him to better form his sounds and project his voice in a way that makes the unavoidable nasality less noticeable.Our son is more confident and outgoing & even took on a speaking role in the church play. Matt has the perfect personality to relate with our son, and we would recommend him to anyone needing speech therapy services!

Jessica Havalotti

LLA Therapy has been an excellent experience for our daughter. I would highly recommend LLA. Miss Grace was so amazing and I can't believe how quickly our daughter showed improvement. Thank you!
Read More