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IEP Dos and Don’ts

By Rosemarie Griffin

One of the biggest responsibilities as a provider is to ensure all students are making obtainable goals, meeting those goals, and then creating new ones to continue growing in their speech. This goal setting is done through the IEP. This legal document can get pretty serious, and there are definitely some dos and don’ts to remember when writing, reviewing, or convening in  the IEP meeting. 

Let’s Start with the Dos!

When writing an IEP, it is so important to first remember the student and the family of that student. They need to be as much a part of the student’s goals and growth as you are as the provider. 


Drafting the IEP and sharing it with families is essential to making sure everyone is in agreement and understands the goals put forth for the child. Sending a draft over before sitting down to the formal IEP meeting will put families at ease knowing what they will be discussing. This will help keep the conversation about the IEP on track and keep any guessing or misunderstandings from cropping up in the meeting. Being prepared with the draft ensures a productive meeting!

Do use DATA!

Data is the way to go when writing an IEP. Data doesn’t lie. Data based on the baseline assessments should be your go to when looking at goals. This will make the goals appropriate and make sense to families and everyone else attending the meeting. When you use your baseline data, your goals will be specific to the needs of each individual child with little question as to why you chose them!


The students and the families involved in the IEP process are living the growth and goals everyday. Remember that their feedback can be very powerful. Listening to concerns or suggestions is absolutely a huge part of the IEP being written and approved. 


As a parent or a student walking into an IEP meeting can be incredibly intimidating. A whole bunch of people sitting around waiting for you to talk about you or your scholar can be a bit uncomfortable. Ease the situation and remain positive. Always start with positives about the student and when speaking about goals, make sure to say them in a positive way. Instead of saying, the child lacks this, phrase it as a goal. The child can already do this, so the next step will be to continue with this goal. 

Do Relax!

Smile, relax and be there for your students. Make eye contact when you are speaking. Be confident and remember the focus is on the student. You are there for them to help them be the best version of themselves! 

Now, Let’s Talk about the Don’ts! 

An IEP meeting is a highly formal meeting where stress levels can run high. Make sure to come prepared to these meetings and understand that it isn’t always easy for our caregivers and children to understand what is happening around them! Take a look at these don’ts to make the best of your next round of IEP meetings.

Don’t Speak in Jargon

Remember most of your parents or caregivers haven’t gone to school to be speech therapists, teachers, or special education advocates. Using jargon or acronyms like IEP, or 504, or SLP can really throw a person’s attention away from what really matters and that is the student. Be clear when using terms like SLP (Speech Language Pathologist) and define it for them. There’s no reason to create mystery around what you are saying! Be clear and concise and avoid the educational jargon!

Don’t Call Parents Mom and Dad

Unfortunately, we don’t always know the full picture of our students’ lives. Sometimes we learn more about the child’s life in the actual IEP meetings, so be careful and don’t automatically assume the caregivers sitting in front of you are mom and dad. Don’t damage relationships by making assumptions. Remember the child is your number one priority!

Don’t Be Vague

Use your data to make specific, real time goals. What can the student do in the next month, reasonably? What is the long term goal for the year? Be reasonable and specific. Being vague makes too many questions and doesn’t give everyone in the meeting a genuine picture of what the student can do in the future. Remember the IEP meeting is full of the student’s team and everyone needs to clearly understand what comes next.

Don’t Come Empty Handed!

Along with avoiding vagueness, comes the data. Come with the baseline results. Be ready to share what you observed. Share what the results of the baselines test were, and don’t be afraid to discuss how they helped you set the goals for the IEP. Being specific with your data will make everyone at the meeting more responsive to your suggestions!

Don’t Disregard Parent Feelings 

Remember an IEP can be an emotionally charged event. No parent or caregiver wants to see their child struggle, and this very formal meeting can be intimidating. That’s enough to send any parent’s stress level through the roof, even if they have been at the table before. Remember this is their child. This is their child’s progress. The emotions can range from anxiety, to sadness, to extreme delight, and of course relief. Be present in the moment, stay positive and informative, and most of all be aware of how the parents are feeling to make the meeting a positive goal setting event!


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Here's a free resource–

IEP Goal Bank

Writing IEPs for autistic learners can feel daunting.

From this free download, you'll get real-life examples of specific, measurable goals for expressive language, receptive language, play skills, and imitation.

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