And the number one thing you need to know about IEPs?
It's just not that important.
I know. You're horrified. That I should go into ALL these tips and then say that???
The single most important part of the IEP is YOU.
No, seriously. Whatever is done in school is important, and is worthy to fight with/for. But what is FAR more important, is what is done at home. How do YOU treat your child? What do YOU expect of them? How do YOU push and challenge them?
Do you do homework with your child? Do you intervene if "work" is too much? Do you read to your child? Do you encourage their creativity? Do you support their needs? Do you carry over "sneaky" therapy interventions? Speech? Fine motor? Gross motor? Do you allow for meltdowns and provide a safe haven? Do you push them in uncomfortable situations (with boundaries) to help them learn and grow? Do you expect the moon for and of them??
Trust me, how you treat them at home molds their idea of themselves. Their idea of themselves then drives them when you are not around. The special needs community speaks a lot of the idea of "advocating" for our children, with the piggy-backed idea of "them advocating for themselves" as an end goal. They won't advocate for themselves if they don't think they can do something in the first place. The seed won't grow without fertile soil and sun and water...
What goes on at school is important, but they won't do anything new and magical at school if they don't believe that they can do it. If they are saturated with expectations and encouragement, then they will fight for themselves at school. They will put forth their best effort (no matter the tack of education chosen, self-contained or full inclusion), if they know what is expected of them. I have said it BEFORE, and I will say it again, you do your child NO FAVOR if you have no expectations. If you do everything for them, even if it helps your sanity, they will never do for themselves. The biggest favor you can do for your child is strengthen their own resolve and idea of self. I hate the word, because I feel like its overuse has neutered it, but empower them. It is SO important.
Water and fertilize their seed of personal ownership...and watch it flourish. In school and out. IEPs are only a fertilizer, you are the gardener. Don't forget.