Being part of a team, in any atmosphere, requires people of all mindsets and backgrounds to work together to achieve their common goal. A student’s IEP team is no different. Below are 5 tips to keep IEP meetings positive and productive.
Spoiler alert: Many of these start before the meeting even takes place!
- Keep An Open Line of Communication: Throughout the school year, ask parents if they have any concerns about their child’s progression, connection with classmates, accommodations, etc. Ask for parents’ input on the student’s goals and progress. Utilize apps, such as Seesaw or Class Dojo, to keep parents in the loop on their student’s daily activities and behaviors. Be sure to communicate positive news to parents, not just negative news, in between meetings, as this will promote a positive relationship between the family and the school.
- Show Personal Connection: Introduce the IEP team to help parents associate a name with a face and share what each team member appreciates about the student to promote a positive connection. For example, say something as simple as “I'm Mx. Embrace and the thing that I appreciate most about [the student] is that he always treats his classmates and teachers with respect”. This shows that this student has an impact and is valued and appreciated by the staff and administration.
- Clearly Define The Impact: Give in-depth explanations of the student’s IEP. Being able to describe how a goal will benefit the student or why a specific placement will be the best for the student’s learning will allow the parents to better understand what steps are being taken for the student’s progression throughout the year.
- Don’t Overwhelm: Make sure parents don't get overwhelmed with information. Take breaks, or pause the meeting, and ask if they are understanding everything. Not everyone will feel comfortable asking questions, especially if they are new to the IEP process. Asking “Does this make sense?” can open the gates for better understanding. Another idea is to send home a draft IEP for parents to review prior to the meeting. This gives parents time to write down their thoughts, ask better questions, or even suggest changes, instead of being caught off-guard and feeling unprepared.
- Exchange Contact Information: Sometimes a question doesn’t come to mind until after parents have left the meeting. Providing parents with your contact information and office hours can keep communication open and help parents trust that you will be available to discuss questions or issues as they arise.
The conclusion of the meeting isn’t the final step. Having a continuing relationship with parents is an ongoing process, and with everyone on the same team, the student will continue to find success.