With my first 504 and Individual Education Plan (IEP) qualification meeting approaching, I did what any overly prepared, easily intimidated person would do, scour the internet for tips – after all, knowledge is power. I also braved a seminar our school district held to help parents understand the 504/IEP laws, it, unfortunately, turned from an informational meeting to a platform for other parents to air grievances. Super frustrating for those of us who attended with the hope of learning something.
I wanted to share a few amazing DO’s and DO NOT’s I have found from research and having attended my own 504/IEP qualification meeting.
- Put together binders with all current information you have to date on your child. (Should your meeting be regarding possibly seeking evaluations I recommend having medical information such as birth weight, length, and term of pregnancy as well as the notes your Pediatrician has on their monthly, bi-monthly, and yearly growth milestones. You can request a copy of this information from your doctor’s office)
Make a MASTER copy for you, one for the teacher, principal, nurse, special education director, and school counselor. Include a picture of your child doing an everyday task – it helps to put a face to the name plus it “humanizes” your child.
Every binder should have the same sections and information, i.e., Psych Evaluation; Occupational Therapy Evaluation; Physical Therapy Evaluation; Doctor Reports; Teacher Progress Report; Teacher Correspondence; Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team (MET) – for the official signed meeting notes); and Notes.
- Have a firm understanding of the rights and resources that are available for your child.
- Know the difference between a 504 vs. IEP and which you feel would best support your child.
- Arrive at your meetings with well thought out ideas or strategies to help support your child and teachers.
- Prepare to compromise and have realistic expectations of what can be accomplished during school hours vs. at home.
- Dress appropriately for the meeting. (i.e., slacks and semi-casual top vs. workout clothes) You would think this is obvious, but many parents show up like they are going to the gym or have just rolled out of bed. Your 504 or IEP is an important meeting dress accordingly.
All of these things will help you to be prepared and ready to advocate with confidence!
- Expect the others at your meeting to have all the answers.
- Argue about unimportant details. As much as we want the 504/IEP to be the magic wand remember that nothing will be 100% perfect.
- Expect the school to put in all the effort. It is a two-way street, and a lot of work and time will need to be given by you the parent.
- Be argumentative. It is easy enough to do, trust me, I wanted to bang a few heads together a couple of times. Keep calm and remember everyone in the room is vying for a spot on “TEAM NINJA,” and working to find the best way to help your little Ninja to be successful.
I know that this time can be super stressful when all you want to do is help your child be as happy and successful as they can be. I promise that is everyone’s goal.
Keep in mind that the qualification meeting for a 504 or IEP is the first step in the process of continued meetings and goal setting. You will want to have lines of communication open between everyone.
I remember the first 504/IEP meeting I felt like I was sitting in front of a firing squad pleading our case. The hoops you have to jump through to obtain a 504 or IEP are intense. Once the meeting concluded, I felt utterly drained. It is tedious, emotional, and demanding. The best news is, you will be one step closer to creating a successful school career for your Ninja. Now that is worth celebrating. Eat some chocolate; you’ve earned it!