1. Have the IEP team present.
The IEP team consists of: the case manager, usually the special education teacher, parents, general education teacher, district representative and any other specialists. Specialists in this case could refer to Speech Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist, School Psychologist, Behavior Specialist, Adapted Physical Education teacher and or any outside agency that may have worked with the student. The student should also be invited to the IEP meeting, depending on their age.
2. Have a discussion not a lecture.
The best IEPs are developed by a team. Draw on the expertise of the members of the IEP teams. IEPs are more likely to be effective if the student and parent perspectives are taken into consideration with school personnel’s. Also, when the team members thoughts are considered the team is more likely to work cooperatively. Remember that if you use an interpreter to provide support communicating to the parents to still speak directly to the parents. Translators/interpreters are tools but your intention is to speak to the parents.
3. IEP documents are drafts.
Bring to any IEP meeting a draft IEP. Know that with good conversations changes will be made to the document.
4. Present all the data.
In IEPs it is quite easy to slip into the habit of showing the deficits of the students we serve. There is more to a student than their academic or behavioral deficits. Show the positive areas of each and every student in every meeting. Remember to present the data correctly. Students with IEPs are bound to have things that are weaknesses for them. This information needs to be shared alongside the student’s strengths and improvements.
5. Respect the team.
Try to set up an environment that fosters open communication and comfort for all of the team members. It is as simple as setting up a pot of coffee for the meeting. Be aware of seating arrangements. The seating formation can say a lot about the comfort level of the room. Try to not arrange school personnel on one side of the table with parents alone on the other side. Use time wisely, everyone participating has things to do. Come prepared, ready to start, and try to start on time to the extent possible.
An IEP meeting can be a powerful time for a team to build its course of action and synchronize their efforts. When time is spent to build respect and comfort the course can run a little smoother.