If you recently wrapped up your end-of-year IEP meetings, you probably faced a variety of situations and emotions throughout the process. The IEP process can be complex and demanding, and can sometimes evoke strong emotions and even intimidate some participants, including teachers. If you or your team members came out of these meetings with more feelings of frustration than of success, the summer might be a great time to ensure that all IEP team members receive a refresher on effective IEP meetings and collaboration.
Unfortunately, few IEP meeting participants have received training in the collaborative process, consensus-based decision-making, and conflict prevention and resolution.
Common Sources of Frustration
Lack of Preparedness - The IEP meeting includes the sharing of a lot of information, management of a lot of paperwork, and compliance with a lot of legal obligations. It's essential that participants be punctual, focused, time-conscious, and well prepared.
Competing Demands - School staff and parents have many competing demands, responsibilities, and priorities. All participants should clarify the goals of the meeting and their roles in supporting these goals.
Addressing the Issues - Acknowledge that the process is complex. Focus on the meeting itself and how to help it run smoothly.
Tips for Well-Run IEP Meetings
Pre-conferencing - This helps assure adequate preparation by all participants and should cover the time and place of the meeting, but also the topics to be discussed and what is expected from each participant.
Written Agenda - The agenda should be shared with all participants in advance and allow time to modify and affirm the agenda to provide clarity on the purpose of the meeting.
Introductions and Timeframes - Begin the meeting with introductions of participants and their roles. Also review the agenda and outline the projected time frame for covering each topic in the agenda.
Atmosphere of Mutual Respect - IEP teams communicate and collaborate best when all team members trust that their thoughts and feelings are welcome and respected.
Keeping it Simple - School professionals should speak in user-friendly language and avoid acronyms and jargon that parents may not understand.
Establish Meeting Guidelines - Collaboratively agree to (don't dictate) some meeting guidelines, such as no interrupting, turn of cell phones, and remaining in the room until scheduled breaks.
By maintaining a positive climate, team members are capable of clarifying obstacles and each other's interests. Lastly, the team can make agreements about any disagreements and how they wish to proceed.