“What’s your best tip for making an IEP more effective?”
Here are six of our favorites to think about:
1. Start the IEP with introductions of each person at the table with both your name and a description of your job. For example, “I am Suzy, the SLP. I work with children on how they pronounce words, how they understand vocabulary and directions in the classroom, and how they express themselves.” Make an effort to integrate the team with the parents so that they are not alone on their side of the table. In our district, we try to have the person taking notes next to the parent so the parent can see what is being written. Picture the school environment as your home: you are welcoming and helping them be comfortable on a difficult day.
2. Before presenting your test results, repeat your specialty area and ask the parent what they have noticed at home in this area. Dovetail your presentation to their comments. After presenting test results, ask the parent “What are your questions?” WAIT and let them think and ask before going on.
3. Don’t patronize the parents in the IEP meeting. They are not there because the IEP says they must be, they are part of the team. They have spent their life with this child. Your goal is not to convince them of your perspective, but to understand their perspective and plan together. We do not lay awake worrying about this child. They do. They are emotional because this is personal to them.
4. Look at the paperwork before the IEP and think about how you can adapt your presentation to the parent’s education/culture/language background. One of us had a parent who performed educational testing in another setting. The psychologist spent 20 minutes painstakingly explaining every test, even after the parent said “OK – I’ve given this test – I see how the results fall out. I understand that she is in the normal range.” The parent became angry when there was not enough time to discuss her concerns before several team members had to leave.
5. For many parents, it may help to provide visual handouts, such as a bell curve. Describe how a classroom contains students in each area of the curve. Discuss which portions of the curve may need additional help. As each professional presents their results, refer to the bell curve to show the parent where their student falls in that area. The PCSS Bilingual Bell Curve of Student Speech and Language Skills is available in our resources section.
6. Remember that some parents of children with special needs may have done more research than you have into their child’s specific condition. All parents have had years of trial and error managing their child’s disability. We know parents who presented on teacher in-service days to teach how they manage issues such as ADHD and cerebral palsy.