The frustration of parents, school districts and teachers is palpable at many IEP meetings. Often, it feels as if the parties are on opposing sides, and that what is at stake is a win. Frequently, everyone involved is entrenched in their position, feeling emotional and experiencing significant stress.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
By figuratively placing the child in the middle of the table, it is possible to focus the team on the true task; designing a program which will allow the student to thrive and grow educationally.
Parents, as part of their “job” want what is best for their child. Teachers want to teach as effectively as possible to all the students in their care. District personnel are mindful of the needs of all children in their district, and the constraints of staff, buildings and budgets which they must keep in balance.
How can this diverse team of people arrive at a consensus regarding an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for a child? With patience, respect, and flexibility.
An IEP is a “living document.” This means it is not set in stone for any period of time. It can be amended as needed, either because the child’s needs have changed, or the parties decide that there is a different way to provide services or achieve goals. This knowledge alone can take some of the pressure off each team participant. Children are living, changing, and growing beings; perfectly imperfect. We should not expect a document to be perfect, either.
When parents anticipate difficulties in the IEP process, or simply want a fourth party to be involved, it can be helpful to bring a low key advocate to the table. This person should know all of the parties roles, and what is important to each person in the team. Ideally, an advocate understands the parents, the child’s needs (by interpreting evaluations), and the district’s services. More important, however, is finding an advocate who will not polarize the parties. A good advocate keeps the focus on the child, and helps everyone to think outside the box and be flexible.
My experience in over a dozen years of advocacy is that with my collaborative approach, creative and effective solutions are designed and implemented for the student, without need for due process or hearings.
If you are interested in having me guide you through the special education process, including Student Study Teams (SST), 504’s, IEP’s and 26.5 qualifications, please contact me.
- Wrights Law Website
- Parents Helping Parents Website
- Stanford Autism Center
- National Center for Learning Differences (NCLD) Advocacy
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