What to Expect When You Are Expecting an IEP Meeting

Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings play a crucial role in the lives of students with disabilities and their families. Understanding the ins and outs of these meetings is essential for providing comprehensive support to your clients. As a private practice BCBA, you may never be invited to an IEP meeting, and that's okay. It isn't like a birthday party, and it doesn't mean everyone hates you—and there is rarely cake.  

Understanding the Basics of an IEP Meeting:  


Trivia IEP

An IEP is a legally binding document outlining individualized educational goals, services, and accommodations. Students don't need to have any specific medical diagnoses to qualify for an IEP. It's all about needs within the school setting. An IEP meeting aims to develop, review, and revise the student's educational plan to ensure they receive appropriate support.

Key Participants:

  • Caregivers/ Guardians: Caregivers and legal guardians play a huge part in an IEP meeting. Their input and involvement are crucial for developing a plan that aligns with the student's strengths, challenges, and family priorities. That said, these meetings can be overwhelming. I've been in a few meetings where the two caregivers and I were on one side of the table, and seven school personnel were on the other. The parents were so intimidated!. 
  • School Personnel: This may include special education teachers, general- education teachers, school administrators, school psychologists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, and other relevant professionals involved in the student's education. If a BCBA were to work for the school system, they would also fall into this category. You can see how the room fills up quickly. Everyone is busy with about 100 places to be at once, so this portion of the meeting may feel rushed. It's like playing hot potato with the metaphorical microphone.
  • The Student (When Appropriate): The student may participate in all or part of the IEP meeting. Encouraging student involvement can promote self-advocacy and empower them to actively participate in their education. 
  • Outside Professionals: In some cases, outside professionals (such as you as a private practice BCBA) may be invited by the parent to contribute their expertise to the IEP process. Remember, when invited by a caregiver, you are a guest of the caregiver. I tend to speak when spoken to- and mind my Ps and Qs. 

What to Expect Before the Meeting:

  • Reviewing Documentation: Before the meeting, you may receive copies of the student's current IEP, evaluations, progress reports, and other relevant documentation. Take the time to review these materials thoroughly to gain a comprehensive understanding of the student's needs and progress. You should also review all of your clinical documentation and bring copies (with parent permission).
  • Preparing Recommendations: Based on your data and observations, prepare to respond to direct questions. You may be asked for recommendations on goals, interventions, and accommodations that align with the student's individualized needs and goals. You may also not be asked. I don’t share unless I’m asked.

What to Expect During the Meeting:

  • Discussion of Present Levels of Performance: The meeting typically begins with a review of the student's present levels of academic achievement and functional performance, including strengths, areas of need, and progress toward current goals.
  • Goal Setting and Development: The team will collaborate to develop or revise the student's goals and objectives for the upcoming IEP period.
  • Determining Services and Supports: The team will discuss the specialized instruction, related services, accommodations, and modifications necessary to support the student's access to the general education curriculum and participation in school activities. 
  • Parent Input and Participation: Parents/guardians are encouraged to share their perspectives, concerns, and goals for their child's education. It's important to listen actively, validate their experiences, and involve them in decision-making.
  • Documentation and Signatures: The outcomes of the meeting, including the finalized IEP document, must be documented in writing. All participants, including you, must sign the IEP to indicate their participation.  
IEP dos and donts

Participating in an IEP meeting as a private practice BCBA presents a valuable opportunity to contribute your expertise to the collaborative process of supporting students with disabilities. By understanding the purpose of the meeting, preparing effectively, and actively participating in discussions, you can ensure that the student's individualized needs are met, and their educational goals are achieved. Remember, each IEP meeting is a chance to make a meaningful difference in the lives of the students and families you serve. 



U.S. Department of Education. (n.d-a). Individuals with disabilities act: Topic Areas.

U.S. Department of Education. (n.d.-b). Laws & guidance. Retrieved April 3, 2023, from

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