5 Ways to Set IEP Meetings up for Success
The parent-teacher relationship is a delicate one, particularly in special education. IEP meetings sometimes become a battleground, and conflicts can arise despite the best of intentions.
While there’s no magic formula to prevent conflict, there are things that administrators can do to set meetings up for success. We’ve listed five things teams can do before, during, and after an IEP meeting to create an atmosphere of collaboration with parents.
Educators forget that IEP meetings can feel awkward and scary to parents, especially if they’ve had a bad experience in school themselves. Going out of your way to make parents feel welcome is exceptionally helpful in setting the tone from the beginning of the meeting. This looks like welcoming them into your meeting space, offering them drinks or snacks, and making conversation. Often, parents feel like outsiders as team members assemble and make small talk amongst one another. Don’t forget to include them, even if you’re talking about the weather.
Always start with the good.
Too often, parents come into meetings expecting to hear things their children can NOT do, which puts them on the defensive. If you are a team member or meeting facilitator, invite others to begin the meeting by saying something positive about the student. This simple act can set an optimistic tone from the start.
Listen without distractions. Like, REALLY listen.
Put away electronic distractions from cell phones and computers, unless you need a screen to report from. Print out your notes and reports to read instead. There’s nothing more anger-provoking to a parent when they feel they aren’t being heard or acknowledged. Remember, parents get ONE time per year to meet with you. While this may be your tenth IEP meeting this week, it is not theirs. Respect them by giving them your undivided attention.
Be willing to admit mistakes.
Bruce Lee once said, “Mistakes are always forgivable if one has the courage to admit them.” If parents bring something to your attention that needs to be corrected, be prepared to apologize. Honesty goes a long way here, as do action steps to repair the damage. Being truthful builds trust with parents and demonstrates you’re human. Admitting mistakes also shows you’re willing to learn and change behaviors to best support students.
Use language parents can understand.
Most parents are unfamiliar with acronyms like “PLOP”, “BIP”, or “AYP”. In addition, clinical terms like “auditory processing” or “other health impaired” may cause confusion. It is helpful to keep explanations simple, and use as many visual aids as possible (i.e., charts, graphs, work samples, etc.) Following the meeting, ensure parents have email addresses, names, and phone numbers of all team members should they have questions afterward. Don’t just assume they know where to find information.
If your school or district needs collaborative professionals in related services, give us a try! Our therapists have an average of 17 years of experience working in their field of public education. They’d love to become an extension of your onsite teams.