Effective IEP Teams: Reality or Impossible Dream?

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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?

It is basically the same set of people.  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.

If changes are needed before an annual review, it is more likely that either staff will request a meeting or they will supports a parent’s request.  If your child is not getting to where the team intends, the brakes will go on.  The team will say, What do we need to do differently?

True Team Development

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.

What this really looks like is a child who makes progress.  Your child benefits the most from effective team building.  Staff benefit from support, concrete goals, parental support, and recognition of their efforts.  Other students benefit from effective ways of teaching and learning.  Anyone think that only one child benefits from effective methodology used in a classroom? NOT!

Is it worth it to make the effort to build an effective team? It sure is!

Is it easy, or done, after the first few effective meetings? No, it is an ongoing effort, kind of like trying to keep up with the laundry.  You get it done one day, but by the next, you have more to do.

There will always be situations that don’t present a quick solution. There will always be days when parents or staff simply go “off track.”

The longer an effective team functions, the more likely it is to continue.  It can spread to meetings about children you may not even know.  Staff learns what supports and training they need and feel free to seek them. Teachers can recognize methods that might be more effective for another child in their class.

It takes some of the pressure off parents.  When you don’t feel you have to fight for everything your child needs, you can spend more time working with staff to provide effective education.

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

  1. This is what I call “no fault special education”. Building an effective team is well worth the effort. Professionals and families now come to the table with too many preconceptions and often seem to be working to meet the needs of the program/district district or family preconceptions about what they should get in case they ever need it. Long story short, everyone comes to the table in an adversarial mood which does not benefit the child.

  2. I wish this was around when my child needed it. But I would like for the parents to get to be listened to more, because they are with the child more than teachers…. The parents know more what is better for their own child…. Please, and I cannot express this more – listen to the PARENTS MORE…. After all the child acts different with their parents than with teachers. Let the teachers go to a special room so they can observe more how the child reacts to things. Thank you!

  3. As a parent who has attended IEPs for 2 children with autism for about a decade, I have learned many valuable lessons. The first lesson I learned is to BE what you want the others on the team to be. Tell the team members that you are just as responsible for your child’s education as they are. You want to help implement the IEP goals, so you appreciate their about how you can work with your child at home.

    Letting them know that you don’t put all the responsibility on them alleviates alot of tension.

    I also mean what I say… and I do what I say I’m going to do. Being as available as you want them to be does wonders for morale!

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