Your Child's IEP Team

Who is on the Team

If your child is found to be eligible for special education under IDEA, then a team is formed to create an individualized education plan. The members of the team are proscribed and intended to ensure that there is sufficient expertise and representation to make informed decisions on the behalf of your child. 

Key members will include 

It is important to note that multiple roles can be filled by one person, so for instance a special education teacher who is qualified to interpret evaluation results might wear both hats. Your team chair should provide you with a list of attendees from the school and their roles in the meeting invite, or you can always ask for this. 

This graphic comes from the U.S. Department of Education's Guide to the Individualized Education Program and shows the different roles on an IEP team

You Can Invite Additional Members to Your Team

As parents you have the right to invite individuals to your child's IEP meetings. Individuals you might consider could include a friend or family member; a specialist on special education, called an Educational Advocate; or an outside service provider for your child who's experience and expertise may be relevant for the team. 

When considering who to invite some rules of thumb to consider:

If the answer to all of these questions is no then you should likely recconsider whether that person is a good fit for your child's IEP team. If questions 1 and 2 are no and the answer to question 3 is yes, then you should consider discussing with the person how much time they can spend  preparing for the meeting, such as learning more about special education, reading reports provided by the school and so forth. If the person you are considering bringing isn't experienced with special education and doesn't have time to prepare, you might consider whether you can set ground rules, such as asking your friend or family member to listen only, so you can discuss after. 

Ultimately, what you want to weigh is the benefit the person brings against any potential for undermining your hard work preparing for the meeting or leading the team into counter-productive discussions. A friend or family member can be a great addition to your team, offering you much needed support, but you know the person best.  

Bringing Outside Specialists

In our experience some of the best individuals to bring to an IEP meeting are outside specialists, who have experience with your child. For example, if your child recently had a neuropsychological evaluation, it can be very productive to invite the neuropsychologist to your IEP meeting. Some other examples of specialists might include a BCBA therapist providing home ABA services if your child has autism, an outside speech and language or OT therapist, executive functioning coach, specialized tutor, or psychologist or counselor.

The value that specialists working with your child can bring is that they offer perspective outside the school setting and expertise beyond what you can offer as a parent. Specialists can typically engage expert-to-expert with the school's specialists speaking the same language, which can be tremendously helpful in determining the right level of services. 

Sometimes these specialists might join for a single meeting - for example a neuropsychologist might join an IEP meeting shortly after completing an neuropsychological evaluation, but unless they work regularly with your child would not feel qualified to participate on a recurring basis. Other times specialists might be open to participation on a more or less ongoing basis. 

Your first step here should be asking the service provider what their policies are on IEP participation as these vary considerably from provider to provider. Some specialists might be willing to join IEP meetings as a matter of course while others might have a policy of never joining IEP meetings. Still others might require a separate fee, not typically covered through insurance. This might also be a question you'll want to consider as a criteria when selecting a specialist. 

Educational Advocates

Advocates might be known by a variety of terms including parent, educational, child, student, or independent advocate. In essence these are non-legal specialsts with experience in special education who assist parents navigating the special education system. They can offer parent's advice and participate on parents' behalf in an IEP meeting. For more information see What Are Advocates? 

Preparing to Bring Guests to an IEP Meeting

There are no requirements on parents to inform the school up-front when they plan to bring someone to an IEP meeting but its recommended that you do so from a courtesy standpoint. This can be a simple email to your team chair explaining who you plan to bring and what you expect their role will be. 

When bringing friends or family who may not have prior experience with IEP meetings its also a good idea to prepare them to introduce themselves and say a word or two about why they are there. For example, "Hi my name is Susan and I am a friend of the family here to offer emotional support and keep notes."   

The Role of Team Chair & IEP Meeting Leader 

Schools will have a special role called a team chair who handles the coordination and scheduling of IEP meetings and communication with parents. Often the team chair will be a dedicated role within the school, but it can sometimes be a secondary role filled by a special education specialist or the school's principal.   

Within the IEP meeting itself there will also be a designated leader, usually the team chair. The leader is responsible for kicking off the meeting and keeping on course as you go through the agenda (see What to Expect in an IEP Meeting). 

Whoever the leader is their intended role is to help keep things on track and guide the team toward effective communication. Toward that end a good meeting leader will try and maintain a level of neutrality. 

Facilitated Meetings

At times IEP team members might have trouble coming together as an effective team to make decisions on behalf of the child (for more on what parents can do from their side to foster this see our page on Foundations for Effective Collaboration). If the team is having trouble reaching decisions they can request help from a facilitator from the Massachusetts Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA). 

Either parents or the school can request a facilitated IEP meeting, but both need to agree for facilitation to proceed. There is no cost to either the school or parents as facilitation is offered as a free service by BSEA.

A facilitator doesn't have any formal role in the meeting but acts as a communications expert and neutral party with the aim of helping the team to communicate and collaborate more effectively to create an IEP plan. 

See Also 

Facilitators for IEP Team Meetings - Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA)

Overview of IEP Facilitation (Video) - The Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education (CADRE)

For More Information

Official Resources

Team Members (A Parent's Guide to Special Education in Massachusetts) - Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Facilitators for IEP Team Meetings -

Others with Knowledge or Special Expertise About the Child - Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR)

General Resources

A Principal’s Role and Special Education in Massachusetts - (Presentation intended for school principals, but of potential interest to parents)

The IEP Team Members - Reading Rockets

Who’s on the IEP team -

Individualized Education Program (IEP) Facilitation - The Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education (CADRE)

Please note that we at Reading SEPAC cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any information presented on any third-party website listed on this site, nor do we endorse any informational content appearing on third-party websites of any of the providers listed. We endeavor only to provide a listing of potentially helpful information available. Its up to you, as a consumer, to do your own diligence and research. Also note that any summarization of the laws, rules, regulations, processes or similar related to special education, or advice proffered is based exclusively on the experience of Reading SEPAC members as parents of children with special needs. Its in no way an official reflection of the position of the FCSA or the Reading School system and we make no claims of expertise in communication, law, education or any other areas. While we have endeavored to provide simple-to-read language for parents, we are not experts, do not claim to be, and make no warranties or claims of accuracy related to the informational content of this website.