Attending an IEP meeting as a parent can be a scary and emotional experience. Parents want to make sure that their children are given every opportunity to succeed, and they are a vital part of a child’s IEP team.
It’s our job as educators to make parents feel heard and to let them know that they are an important part of their child’s team. Following these steps during an IEP meeting can improve the experience that parents have at an IEP meeting.
It is imperative that the parent knows who is interacting with their child! Take time at the very beginning of the meeting to introduce everyone at the table and explain their roles.
Parents may not know what a building coordinator or a school psychologist is or does. When a parent understands what role each person plays and why, they will be better equipped to help make decisions about their child.
Take the Parent’s Needs Into Account
Sometimes parents need an interpreter for American Sign Language or in their native language. Arrange for this well in advance of the meeting, and be sure to introduce the interpreter!
Parents may also need to attend the IEP meeting over the phone, or may need transportation to the school to attend the meeting. Take these needs into account. Work with your district to arrange transportation if necessary. Involve the parent over the phone as much as possible.
An engaged, involved parent is an integral part of the IEP team!
After introductions, move to stating positive statements about the student.
IEP meetings can sometimes take a negative turn if the parent is receiving bad news from an evaluation or if a child has not met their IEP goals. Beginning the meeting on a positive note can help balance this. Plus, parents love to hear good things about their kids!
Try saying something like “I love working with Johnny because….” or “Sarah has improved so much in X area this year!”
For example, when explaining something like “least restrictive environment”, give an example of what it means.
Leave Time for Questions
IEPs contain a huge amount of information, so it is important to not only leave time for questions at the end of the IEP overview, but also at the end of each section.
This is especially important when the parent is attending over the phone. Without being able to see the parent and read their body language, you may not know if the parent is confused, intimidated, or upset.
Leave time for parents to ask questions and express their feelings about the IEP.
Parents are a crucial part of the IEP team! By making the parent feel comfortable and understood, they will be more likely to contribute to the IEP process and become involved in their child’s education.