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Resolving Parent-School Disputes

Question 12.

Is building an effective IEP team a reality or just an impossible dream?


When parents build an effective team with the school, what does it look like?

What happens at IEP meetings when staff and parents come together to develop an effective plan for a child with disabilities?

What is different about an effective team?

1.   Parents will get more information before the meeting.  Staff will both share their observations of your child and seek input from parents.  The school will test your child as needed without having to hold meetings and negotiations.  The school will give parents test results and explain the facts. Parents will learn what the test results mean in terms of what their child needs to progress.

2.  There will be much less “professional” turf war posturing.  Neither staff nor parents will have to defend their observations or opinions.  Each team member will see the other as an equally important part of the team.  Differing thoughts do not become personal attacks.  It is not an insult to question an opinion. Questions become a way to more fully explore the needs and present levels of your child.  All team members learn back up their opinions with factual observations, test results, and findings by qualified professionals.

3.  The team follows the IEP process.  The team does not propose goals before they establish the present levels.   Availability or budget does not determine services. The team will look at the individual child in total, examining present levels in all required areas.  Then the team sets the goals. If there are unmet needs for supports for staff, the team will provide training and support for teachers, aides, cafeteria workers, or anyone in the school who interacts with your child. Time lines to measure effectiveness will be in place and followed.

4.  The team has up-to-date information on everything that relates to effective teaching and learning for THIS child including curriculum possibilities, teaching techniques, and creative use of related services.

5.  Staff will have “buy in”. So will parents. The plan is much more likely to be followed fully. Administration is less likely to try to intervene or adjust the required services and support.

Does this mean there will be no conflicts, no differences of opinion? Absolutely not.

Conflict, resolved thoughtfully, can produce better outcomes than either position alone would have produced.  Being willing to openly consider a new concept is one of the hallmarks of true team development.  Differences will not become “line in the sand” issues.  “My way or the highway” does not happen.

Building an effective, collaborative IEP team is one of the best long-term efforts a parent can make.

Legal Resource

Wrightslaw: All About IEPs Chapter 14

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition

Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, 2d Edition


20 U.S.C.§ 1412(a)(14)

IDEA Regulations

34 C.F.R. §300.156

Additional Resources

How to Solve Problems and Protect Parent-School Relationships

Building Effective IEP Teams: Reality or Impossible Dream?

Going Ballistic in a Public Forum - NOT Good Form!

Walk in the School's Shoes: Help them WANT to Help Your Child

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In

State Special Education Regulations and Guidelines. You will find your specific state regulations at your State Department of Education website. Use the Wrightslaw Yellow Pages for Kids with Disabilities to locate your state site.

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