Tips for a Successful IEP Meeting! (with MEME's!)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

So, I love Meme's and I love successful IEP meetings, so why not blend the two together?

(That's for my Office fans!)
Prep for the Meeting

Communicate with the parents- This should be a given right? We’ll you’d be surprised. My advice is to always ask for parent input in each are before even writing the IEP. I've never heard a parent complain that they had too much input into their child's IEP. Once you have a draft copy, send it home for the parent to look over, at least 1 week before the IEP meeting. About 2 days before the meeting, call the family and ask if they have any concerns about the goals. Nine times out of ten, you will get a BIG FAT NO. Whoop whoop, on to the meeting for you. IF they express concerns, try to clear up any of those before the meeting. If their concerns deal with a part of the IEP that you feel you cannot agree with them on, or it needs to be a team decision, then, take note, and bring it up at the meeting.

Convene the School Staff in Advance

School members can meet before the IEP to talk about any changes or concerns they may have before the meeting without the parent. Be careful though, to not predetermine anything that requires IEP team decisions. Sped law says that you can have informal, unscheduled, or conversations on issues like teaching methods, lesson planning,  or service coordination without the parent.

Organize your Data

Be a Data Nerd. Collect, collect, collect it. A wise man once said, “You can never have enough data.” ha-ha, I don’t exactly know who that wise man was, but I bet he worked in special ed!  If the parent’s indicate a concern like the student made no progress in Math and in your head you are like….No way, My data says, nope.  Make a line graph. Plot that data. A graph can show visual people what all your data here and there and on this and that page, and on this observation, and anecdotal record, and informal assessment, can’t.

Create an Agenda

Now, I know NONE of you has ever been in an IEP that is longer than 2 hours right? (insert sarcasm here) My IEP record is a 2 day meeting. They are not fun. No one likes them, but you can make them go a little smoother, and go a little shorter. Create an agenda. Write a list of the people at the table and their roles for everyone to have, or create nametags for everyone, then list the parent concerns and the staff concerns if any.  You can introduce everyone at the start of the meeting, and then jump in to the meat of the parent’s concerns. This tackles the issue head on, and saves time later. I am a direct person. Let’s not lightly step around the issues, and then at the end, when you try to get parents to sign, they refuse because they want to discuss something's, and no one saved time to listen to their issues, so you end up being at an impasse. Don’t read the IEP to the parent…If the parent already has a draft copy of the goals, should you read them the draft copy word for word? In my humble opinion, No.  Honestly, if you did that to me, after I had the draft copy, I’d be offended. Unless you know that the parent struggles with being able to read, most parents find it demeaning and are offended. I always usually say something like, “This math goal says that they will still be working on adding and subtracting, and we will probably start them with borrowing and re-grouping once they have mastered that. Do you have any questions or concerns on this page?”  That right there saved you a good 5-10 minutes, depending on how fast you read. If your admin says you must read word for word, well then, sorry, I can’t help you. Keep on keeping on!

Do not be Afraid to Brainstorm with Parents!

So you think Sally should attend the resource room full time. Parents disagree and say you have not given poor Sally a chance to make it in General Ed, and they think she should be in general ed. for the whole day with an aide if she needs one.

Let's aim for no one crying!

What do you do? Call a stalemate and wage head first into mediation and due process? Well, I am not one that likes that M word. But I do like the C word. No, get your mind out of the gutter! Compromise! The whole team needs to talk about what Sally’s day would look like completely in general education, what would it look like completely in resource? What are the Pro’s and Con’s to each. Why does the team think that Sally needs small group instruction and 1:1 work through our her whole school day. What if you compromised, and told parents that you are willing to try 50/50? Sally spends her morning in general ed. First Grade and her afternoon in resource to help reinforce the concepts she learned in general ed?  What is so bad about trying that? If it works, great! If it doesn’t, at least you have more data and resources to prove that although, parents wanted little Sally to stay in general ed full day, she couldn’t even do half a day.
Some times parents just need to hear that you really thought about what they wanted, and if you work with them to talk about pro’s and con’s of each idea, they will at least feel like you listened, and sometimes, that’s all they need. Other times, maybe you will end up in mediation, but because you had that conversation with them, and you wrote it into the Prior Written Notice, you have more evidence to take to mediation if you end up there.

Set a Time Limit for the Meeting
I always tell my teachers to put on the parent invite that the IEP will last 1 hour, unless I know that the parents usually have concerns, or it typically is a longer meeting, then I tell them 2 hours. 2 hours is long enough to meet in 1 day, especially if you are meeting during the day and are missing quality instructional time with your students. After 2 hours, most people are done. They need a break and time to re-gather their thoughts. Therefore, we meet, use an agenda, and try to keep everyone on task. If our 2 hour time mark is up, we tell the parents, that we will send home the revisions the team has made thus far, and will reconvene to finish the rest. This can some times be a sanity saver. It’s also important to let parents know as soon as you know a meeting time and date. 2-4 weeks in advance of the meeting is best, that way if the family has a conflict the meeting can be rescheduled.

Demand Respect
Everyone should be introduced at the meeting. Some people prefer to introduce themselves, so it is best to start and pass that baton to someone else. Ask genuine question about the student to the parents. This lets them see you do care of the student outside of the school stuff. Everyone needs a seat at the table. Is a team member who is forced to sit on the floor, going to feel apart of the team? Probably not. If everyone has nice conference meeting chairs, and one team member has a kindergarten chair from down the hall, are they going to feel super important? Do what you can to find similar sized chairs and room for everyone. Model active listening. It’s my pet peeve when a parent is telling us a story about their child, and two team members are whispering back and forth. The parent is taking the time to tell you something unique about that child, you may not already be privy to the information that she is relaying. Talking over or through them is just rude. Don’t do it. Lastly, call the parents by their first and last name. Don’t say, "Sally’s mom," or "Mom says that Sally does this." Say, "Jennifer says that Sally is doing well with…"It’s just respectful, and it shows the family they aren’t just another mom/dad/family that you have to deal with.

Life Happens
At the end of the day, you need to be able to still be confident in your abilities. Sometimes IEP meetings can end up being upsetting or make us question our skills. We all make mistakes. Especially in spelling and writing the draft copies. It happens. Life happens. I once had a teacher who wrote an entire section of the IEP saying “She can do this, She can do that..” The student was a boy. The teacher was SOO embarrassed. She realized she had been talking to the PT about another student when she was trying to write the IEP, so the wrong Pronoun was a byproduct of not paying attention while typing and talking.

Remember we all have bad days, but good days will come, so be like that cool kid above and say " I rocked this IEP!" Because chances are you may have!

Happy IEP Meeting Planning! 


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