by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed., MLIS
If you’ve been a SPED teacher for a while, you have attended many IEP Team meetings. Some of you may have inserted the word “dreaded” before the word IEP. If so, this article is for you.
It doesn’t have to be that way, and it’s a true test of your administrative skills to create a consistently positive environment for team meetings. The IEP development process is too important to kids for it to be a contentious or difficult experience.
The success of the IEP meeting and approval process is completely up to you and your team members. It pays off in a big way to meet with your team often, without parents and others there. You need to be a cohesive and unified group. Much of the success has to do with doing your homework.
Like the team meetings, it pays to establish good relationships with parents outside of the team meeting room. Be sure your classroom is a welcoming place for parents. You’ll find their contributions will be key in the development of effective programs for children.
A story comes to mind. A parent was concerned about the help her child was receiving each day in the classroom. She had read an article about tablet computers and their effectiveness in blended learning classrooms. She hadn’t told the teacher that she wanted one for her child, so the concept was foreign when it was suggested at the team meeting. The teacher felt blindsided and was defensive when she heard the request for a personal tablet. This may not be a perfect scenario; these days tablets are readily available for most students, but it serves to make a point. We are all trying to keep costs down, and technology is expensive.
If the parent had been a regular visitor in the school and classroom, the teacher would have already had the tablet conversation with her. Perhaps it isn’t necessary to have the personal tablet computer written in to the IEP. It can now become known that the school is in the process of acquiring them for all children, and there are also tablets available through the library. This kind of pre-meeting conversation will forestall any difficult moments in the meeting.
We talk a lot about “written into the IEP.” If the team is prepared ahead of time for each meeting, many expensive accommodations can be vetted and policies established for the provision of the services. Policies are wonderful things, they level the playing field and dispense with the notion that one child receives more support than another.
Use email and the telephone to stay in touch with students’ homes. You might solicit ideas from parents in a general email to all; you’ll start conversations that may make the IEP meeting easier. Knowing in advance what parents want and are expecting to see in the IEP will render the meeting a formality. No more long, drawn out and time-consuming conversations about whatever the parent is requesting this time. There will always be parents who are challenging, but doing your homework paves the way for a better team meeting.
I’ve found some helpful resources for team meeting preparation and administration:
For teachers and other team members:
Team meetings and IEP development are a critical part of a special student’s world. Our goal is to have the student’s welfare in mind at each stage of the process.
Let me know how you’re doing.
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