IEP meetings are intimidating, most times for all parties involved!
While many veteran teachers still feel butterflies when they enter the conference room, first year teachers experience the nerves of IEP meetings ten-fold.
To help alleviate some of those nerves, we asked experienced special ed teachers to share their best tips and tricks for IEP meetings. Their advice is teacher-tested and spot-on!
First IEP Meeting Tips and Tricks
1 – Have an Agenda
An agenda not only keeps you organized as you lead the meeting, but it also helps the meeting flow. If you are worried about time constraints, try putting times next to each section, so that everyone knows when it’s time to move on.
2 – Have a Checklist of What to Bring to the Meeting
Create or use a checklist of what to bring to the IEP meeting so that you do not forget anything. The last thing you want to have happen is forgetting something important and not realizing it until mid-way through the meeting!
3 – Lead with Positives
IEP meetings are hard for many families for a variety of reasons. They know that their child needs help, but when a meeting starts off pointing out all of the things that are wrong, it can leave them feeling defensive and angry. Instead, break the ice and build rapport by leading with positives. Talk about what the student does well. Give examples of how he or she has helped in class, been a role model, been kind to others, tried hard on assignments, etc. Win families over by showing that you notice more about their child than what needs improvement.
4 – Give Parents All of the Information Ahead of Time
Prevent surprises at the meeting as much as possible by giving parents advance copies of the IEP draft, a sheet defining special ed/IEP terminology, and any other important information that they need to know. Whether they review it ahead of time is up to them, but it can save a lot of frustration by allowing them to review the documents ahead of time.
5 – Realize Parents Come to the Table with Many Emotions
Parents of children with special needs often come to the IEP table with a myriad of emotions. They have concern over their child’s progress, they may be embarrassed, there may be guilt, and they may even struggle with decisions about their child’s care if the child can not be independent. Make the IEP meeting easier for them. Compassion, empathy, and kindness go a long way in the IEP meeting and beyond.
6 – Explain the Lingo
While you may have a firm grasp of special ed lingo, most families do not. Spend time explaining what each acronym and term means – especially if it is the family’s first IEP meeting as well.
7 – Save Time for Questions
Make sure you build time into the IEP meeting for families to ask questions about things they may not understand or things they may be concerned about.
Bonus Tip – Stop Trying to Reinvent the Wheel
As a special education teacher, you have enough on your plate without trying to create the things you’ll need for your IEP meetings. Don’t reinvent the wheel! The IEP Toolkit not only has everything you need to write comprehensive IEPs, but it also comes with access to the IEP Meeting Toolkit that includes everything you need to plan and implement a productive meeting. That means you save time and energy! Learn more about the IEP Toolkit here!
Remember that everyone enters an IEP meeting with some degree of nervousness. Be professional, be compassionate, and be proactive. Not only will you find that the IEP will run more smoothly, but the rapport that you build with families may last throughout the school year.