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Prepping for Triennial IEPs

Prepping for Triennial IEPs

Published: Nov. 5, 2021Updated: Apr. 9, 2024

We had an enlightening conversation with special education advocate Dr. Sarah Pelangka about how to prepare for triennial IEPs, and she gave us great advice for staying organized so that we can feel confident going into each meeting. Hear Dr. Pelangka’s explanation of how a triennial differs from an annual IEP meeting:

Once every three years, the school should schedule a full evaluation to make sure your child is still eligible for an IEP and check in on their progress. The IEP team will collaborate to determine the specific assessments that will be administered during the triennial.

Note that a triennial is not mandatory; the parents and district can decide in a written agreement that triennial assessments are not needed, or to limit the scope of the review.

When you discuss the assessment plan two months before your triennial IEP is due, make sure to mention any concerns that you have so that the full evaluation can include those concerns. Even if your child is currently eligible for an IEP under one disability category, it may be important to look at other categories and request assessments such as for autism or visual and auditory processing. Remember that the disability only qualifies a child for an IEP if it can be shown to impact their educational progress, so while a disability like dyslexia will never disappear, its impact on your child’s educational progress may reduce so much that your child is no longer eligible under that category.

Request assessment reports in advance

Make sure that you request copies of all assessment reports that you and the rest of the IEP team will review for the triennial. Dr. Pelangka says, “It's a lot of information, and they tend to be very dense and jargon filled. It's confusing, so you want to have time to really digest it and make your notes. Request those assessment reports, as well as copies of the progress report and the draft IEP, and make sure that you have ample time to review those before going into the meeting.”

The district has 60 days, once you consent to assessments, to conduct evaluations, write reports, and hold the IEP meeting. Dr. Pelangka notes that the district doesn’t have a specified amount of time they must provide parents copies of the reports in advance, but it’s reasonable to request them five to ten days before the IEP meeting.

What if you don’t have enough time to review reports before the IEP meeting?

“Most often districts really do try to accommodate,” Dr. Pelangka says, “and they'll be pretty transparent. They might say, ‘We have everything but the speech report, but we'll get it to you.’ Now, if they're getting you these reports an hour before the meeting, or 8:00 p.m. the night before and your meeting’s at 8 :00 a.m., obviously that's not enough time for you to really digest it and understand it. You can definitely say, ‘I'm sorry, I didn't have enough time to make informed decisions. We're going to have to reschedule.’ That's generally highly recommended because parents have that right, and they want to go in informed.”

Be sure to check out our article IEP Assessments 101 for more information specific to requesting, reviewing, and understanding assessments.

Prepare your essential IEP documents

Triennial IEPs have a special focus on those reevaluation assessments, but they will also include “everything that would be reviewed in an annual,” Dr. Pelangka says, including progress reports and goals.

To make it easier to track your child’s progress since their last triennial, you may want to prepare a yearly progress report using this template:

IEP yearly progress chart template

Request a draft IEP that you can review several days before the IEP meeting, or at least a draft of the goals. Dr. Pelangka says you should make sure the school district is not simply carrying over goals from year to year, which you can do by comparing your child’s current IEP with the new draft.

Dr. Pelangka tells us it’s helpful to organize your notes according to the flow of the meeting and the order in which the IEP document is laid out. Check out this clip for more information:

Other essential documents to prepare before the triennial IEP meeting include your notes about concerns, questions about the assessment reports, and updated notes from your child's medical doctors and therapy providers. You can bring in private assessments and even invite private service providers to the IEP meeting. However, the IEP team is not required to accept that information, just to consider it. “It's just something for parents to be mindful of,” Dr. Pelangka says. “There is a difference between medical and educational. Although that information is helpful, and it contributes, it doesn't necessarily always directly translate to changing the IEP.”

If you do share reports from private assessments with your IEP team before the meeting, Dr. Pelangka suggests highlighting the pieces you really want the team to read. More than likely, the entire IEP team won’t read the whole thing, so you can check in during the meeting to ask their thoughts on the highlighted portion.

Help your child participate in some way

One often overlooked aspect of IEP prep is including your child as a valuable member of the IEP team. “That's not to say your child has to sit through the entire IEP meeting,” says Dr. Pelangka. “But I really do encourage as early on as possible, even in elementary and middle school, give your child a voice.” Check out this clip for examples of what that can look like:
Videos of your child that you bring to the triennial can also supplement assessment reports. Dr. Pelangka says it can be “an excellent source of data because you can't refute it, you're seeing it happen.” It’s not a guarantee your child will be able to perform a particular skill in any setting, “but it's absolutely important for the professionals to see that it's within their repertoire.”

Do all you can to prepare

Given the stacks of reports you’ll need to review before a triennial IEP, it can feel overwhelming to prepare. Dr. Pelangka recommends connecting with someone who’s been through it to help put you at ease, whether that’s just a chat before the meeting or bringing someone with you. Check out her top tips in this clip:
Our Ultimate Checklist for IEP Prep is another great resource full of tips to help you prepare for your IEP meeting, and the Undivided app has a step-by-step guide to walk you through triennial IEP prep.

Know what to do if you disagree

What if the school no longer thinks your child is eligible for an IEP after their triennial assessments? You have a few options:

  • You can request an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) if you feel that the school’s assessment was incomplete or inaccurate. An IEE may add insight to how your child’s disability impacts their education.
  • You can contest your child’s eligibility for an IEP via due process, where you may be able to work out a resolution with the school.
  • You can request a 504 plan for your child instead of an IEP, which provides accommodations in the classroom but is different from an IEP in some key ways.

Want to learn more from Dr. Pelangka about IEP prep? Watch the full recording of our conversation here before your next triennial!



Request assessment reports in advance

Prepare your essential IEP documents

Help your child participate in some way

Do all you can to prepare

Know what to do if you disagree

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Brittany OlsenUndivided Editor

An editor and cartoonist who loves using words and images to simplify and share ideas. She has ten years of experience as a copy editor and lives near Portland, Oregon. She often spends her free time going on nature walks with her dog or trying new bread recipes.

Reviewed by Meghan O'Dell, Undivided Writer and Editor

Contributors Dr. Sarah Pelangka, Special Education Advocate, BCBA-D, and owner of KnowIEPs

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