Making Room for Kindness at the IEP Table by Hilary Shontz
My first time at the IEP table, I was a special education teacher and case manager. I had all of the documents ready to go and throughout the previous week, had checked in with various members of the IEP team. As a teacher, you typically end up feeling in the middle of the parents and the rest of the team. It can seem daunting to “try and make everyone happy”. The IEP meeting needs to be a team effort.
WHAT IS THE “IEP TABLE”?
If a child qualifies for special education services and has an individualized education plan (IEP), there will be meetings occurring at least once a year.
The meeting attendance list should be everyone that works with the child (e.g. therapists, teachers, case manager, parents) and the district local education agency (LEA).
The “IEP table” is where everyone should gather around to discuss everything “IEP” for that child, and make plans together using each person’s expertise.
An IEP is not a document that is easy to understand or construct. Showing and spreading kindness is crucial for everyone that sits at the IEP table. Even when there are disagreements, there needs to be respect shown.
Here are 3 ways to make room for kindness at the IEP table:
1. LISTEN, TO UNDERSTAND THEIR POINT OF VIEW
Everyone has their own experience and expertise both in their field of study and working with the individual child. It is crucial to bring all the knowledge together, to create the most appropriate education possible. Everyone needs to feel heard during the meeting. Mixing different ideas and thoughts often brings new ideas.
2. SHARE INFORMATION
When doing any kind of report (e.g. research, philosophy, history, education, IEP etc.), you need facts; and you need data. The data for IEPs will show progress and/or regression. Those areas are both very valuable in determining what could be best for the individual, moving forward. Data should come from all parts of the IEP and IEP team.
3. ALLOW TIME
None of the decisions for the IEP or from the IEP team should be made quickly. Doing this can make things confusing, frustrating and unreliable. It takes time to collaborate and figure things out. One way to support this, is sending home a draft IEP ahead of the meeting. This allows the parents to look through the IEP, and voice questions, concerns and suggestions before the meeting.
By following these three suggestions, the IEP team will be able to make stronger connections and collaborations with each other. The team needs to work together, in order for the individual to have a strong path forward.
Which one of these ways of making room for kindness stand out to you, for your next IEP meeting?
About the Author:
Hello, my name is Hilary and I'm a credentialed special education teacher and IEP Coach! I'm passionate about helping prepare for the next IEP meeting and understanding the IEP. My husband and I bought a campervan last year and we can't wait to do many more trips this year!
Social Links: hilary-shontz.com
If you liked this and want more IEP strategies, then you’ll love these episodes of the Special Education Inner Circle podcast:
- #101: Transform Your Perspective with Jillian Benfield
- #130: Connection vs Compliance with Katja Piscitelli