Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tips for a Painless IEP meeting

I attended an IEP (Individual Education Plan) workshop put on by Pro Parents of SC and was really impressed on how professional the presentation was. From the Pro Parents website, “Parents Reaching Out to Parents of South Carolina, Inc., is a private, non-profit organization which provides information and training about education to families of children with all types of disabilities.” The trainer was Susan Bruce who is a regional trainer for Pro Parent and participants included a parent, two workers from Department of Disabilities and Special Needs and two workers from Disability Action Center. This was truly informational and I really believe that knowledge gives power. The more informed parents are, the more successful the child will be. I also feel the same thing is true for teachers.

The reason I went to this workshop was so that I could keep current with IEP regulations since I no longer work for the school district and to also learn what parents were being told about IEPs. This would help me in my courses when I teach about the IEP process. I also saw the IEP process from a parent’s point of view which could really help teachers be more effective during IEP meetings. After the workshop I began to think of how I could take what I learned and turn them into teacher tips that could make the IEP process less painful for all and here is what I thought of. If you have anything to add, please feel free to leave a comment.

Draft copy of IEP: Send home a draft copy of the IEP at least a week before the meeting for the parent to review. This gives the parent time to voice concerns, ask questions, or even add things to the IEP before the meeting. It also keeps the lines of communication open with the parent and keeps this process transparent. By doing this it shows that we are all on the same team with the same purpose.

Transition: Encourage parents to talk to their child about transition services at the beginning of the school year. I usually ask the student and they have no idea or just say anything so I can put something down on the IEP. That is not the purpose of this statement and should be talked about a long time in advance before the IEP is developed at the end of the school year. Also be informed about what agencies out there are available to help this child when they leave the school system. During the senior year, I make sure they are invited to the IEP meeting and if they can’t attend, I make sure the parents have the name and phone number of a contact person.

Age of Majority: Make sure parents understand the Age of Majority and how it can affect the decision making process for IEP meetings. Think about how you would act if this was your child. I would also make sure that the student doesn’t sign this unless the parent is present. This helps keep any misunderstandings from happening.

Accommodations: Ask the student what would help them be more successful in their general education classes. Ask the parent for input on what they think would be helpful also. Check with the general education teacher also to see if they would suggest anything. Also, throughout the year, check regularly with all teachers to make sure that the accommodations are being followed. Sometimes when a student is doing well, teachers get complacent and busy with other things, so they might let the accommodations slide. Then the student starts going downhill and it finally comes to light that accommodations aren’t being followed. By checking regularly, this helps prevent any downhill slides for this reason.

State-wide testing accommodations: Anything used for testing must also be used on a regular basis in the classroom. This cannot be a onetime deal. Make sure the parents understand that this goes for every day also because if they need this for this testing, they need it to be successful in class also.

Assistive Technology: Find out what is available for your student beforehand. If the parent asks for certain things, check with your special education director or whoever has the ability to approve this tool. If this request is going to be denied, make sure that you either have that person attend the meeting or ask them to put it in writing so you can present it to the parent.

Communication: If a parent asks for an IEP meeting, set one up as soon as possible. Make sure you understand the purpose of the meeting because it might be something simple that doesn’t require a meeting.

Emotions: Remember that if a parent is upset, not to take it personal. They may be more emotional because this affects their child which is very personal to them. If they are angry, do not make excuses or put the blame on someone else. The best plan would be to look at the facts and come up with solutions and it doesn’t matter why something happened or who is to blame because that is not the purpose of an IEP meeting. If the parent wants to talk about problems and blame, a meeting needs to be set up outside of the IEP meeting at a later time. Everyone is there to help this student be more successful and together you can work to make this possible.

I hope some of these tips help you. Remember a parent is an advocate for their child and that is their purpose. The teacher is also an advocate for this child. Together they can help this child be successful in today’s world.

Original image: 'Atlas, it's time for your bath' by: woodley wonderworks


margaret said...

Thank you - I'm going to get to experience my 1st IEP at my private school soon. I really like the send a draft home idea, that will save bunches of time during the actual meeting and go a long way to reassure them that we have the success of the child in mind.

loonyhiker said...

margaret: Glad it helped. The first meeting is always the hardest but I'm sure you will do fine!

Monica@Dailydwelling said...

Great tips!!! I was one of few teachers that actually enjoyed the IEP process when I taught. I liked testing, writing the IEP and meeting with the parents. I think it's important that we're working together for the same goal and not view each other as "enemies". Also, to be aware of the laws and regulations that are in place.

Joel Zehring said...

Thanks for passing along these tips. Nothing piques emotions more than Special Education the referral and qualification processes. I serve on our school's Child Study Team, and it strikes me that documenting issues and interventions prior to an IEP meeting makes for a smoother meeting. Documentation helps me as a teacher to speak knowledgeably and specifically about my student. Speaking only in anecdotes can sometimes make the parents and student feel discouraged. Documentation allows me to express what I've observed in a more objective manner, with the goal of partnering student, parents, and teacher to overcome the observed educational challenges.
For some free charts to document behavior, check out Latitudes.org

Lauren O'Grady said...

Great tips Pat,
We ran a personalised learning program at my old school which I keep meaning to blog about and add the resources up so people can see them. I found that having individual plans provided focus for my interviews and as a young teacher I found they gave me the framework I needed to talk to parents. It also focussed on a way forward and a shared partnership.

Thanks Pat

loonyhiker said...

monica: you are so right! Working together is a key!

loonyhiker said...

Joel: I can't tell you how many times documentation has saved my life! Thanks for the link too!

loonyhiker said...

lauren: Thanks for making some great points! I appreciate your point of view.

Mathew said...

Great ideas about sending home the IEP in advance though in my experience the IEP is rarely finished before the day of the meeting.

The really contentious IEPs are the ones where lawyers (paid by the hour) attend and it's their job to argue about the contents of the IEP. I wonder if letting them know the contents ahead of time would help or hurt.

loonyhiker said...

mathew: I still feel even if attorneys are involved, that openness and honesty is the best policy. When both parties feel like they are working towards the same goal, they can work together instead of spending energy trying to oppose each other.