Surviving IEP Season: Effective Meetings and Team Collaboration

IEP Team CollaborationThe IEP process can be complex and demanding, and can sometimes evoke strong emotions and even intimidate some participants. As “IEP Season” is in full swing, stress levels may be on the rise for both school staff and parents. Despite its importance, few IEP teams have received training in how to work together collaboratively to reach the consensus-based decisions necessary to support the child. There are many best practices that IEP team participants can use to support collaboration and increase the probability of successful meetings. Some of these include pre-conferencing with participants and setting the stage with a written agenda, introduction of participants, guidelines for the meeting and a projected time frame.

Even under the best of circumstances, there may be challenging decisions to be made by the IEP team that can involve wide differences of opinion and strong feelings. The team can work through these difficult points by first of all remaining cool and staying friendly. By maintaining a positive climate, team members are capable of clarifying the remaining obstacles and each other’s interests. Lastly, the team can make agreements about their disagreements and how they wish to proceed.

 7 Keys to Collaboration

Once the meeting is underway, these keys to collaboration will maximize a smooth-running meeting:

  1. Remember the Common Purpose – While the process can be complex and occasionally trigger strong emotions, participants should remain focused on their shared purpose—supporting the education of the child.
  2. Give Everyone a Voice – For collaboration to truly take place, all participants must feel they have an equal voice in the process.
  3. Open yet Respectful Communication – All participants must feel that their perspective is welcome and respected even during disagreements.
  4. Listen Well – Sharing one’s perspective isn’t enough. Participants must also be open and sensitive to the perspectives of others.
  5. Explore Underlying Interests – Participants need to focus on understanding the “why behind the what” and avoid becoming fixated on disagreements over the means of reaching their goals.
  6. Avoid Demonizing – Even if not immediately understood, participants almost always have good intentions and should avoid the temptation to assume the worst of others during disagreements.
  7. Trust the Collaborative Process – By having faith in the team, expecting success, and letting go of the need to know exactly how issues will play out, the collaborative process is given the space it needs to be successful.

These tips are from the Exceptional Child Online Course IEP Meetings and Team Collaboration.
Other helpful courses include:

  • IEP: Compliance
  • IEPs and the Common Core
  • IEP: Facilitated Meetings

Learn more about these courses and view the full course library at

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