How Can I Program for an Effective IEP Meeting?
10 simple steps toward establishing an effective IEP meeting
By Tracy Mueller
1). Conduct Pre-IEP Meetings:
Parents and educators can discuss the student's yearly progress, assessment results, upcoming events and the parents emerging goals for the student in the home, school, and community at least one or two weeks prior to the IEP meeting. At this time, the two parties can come together to discuss their own goals for the upcoming meeting and any issues that can be discussed ahead of time.
2). Obtain Assessment Results
Prior to the IEP Meeting parents can request, in writing, that each member of the IEP team provide them with any assessment results one to two weeks prior to the meeting. Not only does this strategy allow parents time to reflect on the information provided and plan ahead, it also makes room for more active team discussions about what to do with the results during the IEP meeting.
3). Set Goals for the IEP Meeting:
Prior to the IEP meeting, the educators can call, meet or email all of the stakeholders who will be attending the meeting and ask them to state their goals for the meeting. Upon arriving to the meeting, the goals from all of the participants should be posted throughout the room for the others to view and to maintain focus.
4). Display Student Memoirs:
If the student is not present at the meeting, bring a picture of the student and place it at the center of the table, as well as work samples, or any artifacts that represents the student. This strategy includes the student's presence and brings the meeting back to student-centered planning.
5). Actively Include the Student:
Students who attend their IEP meetings can become actively involved by working with their teachers to facilitate their own IEP meeting. Because student attendance at IEP meetings can easily result in the student passively attending, specific plans need to be made to promote the students' engagement. One effective example I have seen used with this strategy included students' presenting their IEP's in power point form. With the availability of adaptive equipment and assistive technology, students of all abilities can successfully perform this task. The purpose and goal of this practice is to provide the students with an empowering way to learn self-determinism, autonomy, and to keep the focus on their work.
6). Create a Meeting Schedule:
Team members can collectively create a schedule prior to the meeting to assure that all important issues are addressed and to maintain focus.
7). Implement an IEP “Parking Lot ”:
I first became introduced to this strategy from a school district that implemented facilitated IEP's as a means to resolve conflicts between parents and school personnel. Because the district recognized that often IEP meetings can result in a loss of focus and a lengthy discussion over an issue unrelated to the task at hand, the district implemented a “parking lot.” Quite simply, a large piece of paper, labeled parking lot, is posted in the room and used to document any comments or issues that come up during the meeting and are identified as off topic. Essentially, the parking lot strategy acknowledges the issues presented and promises to return to those concerns at a later date. Simultaneously, the meeting maintains it's focus, all team members' concerns are validated and relationship issues are not constrained.
8). Create a Student Needs Chart:
Team members can create a chart with the student's name placed in the center. Surrounding the chart, the team could explicitly discuss and document the student's strengths, perceived limitations, previous goals attained, and present levels of academic achievement and functional performance. Based on this information, the team can discuss where they would like the student to proceed by including both short and long-term goals in the following areas: academics, social, and behavioral in the home, school, and community. Next, the team would actively plan how they could assist the student with attaining the goals. Finally the details surrounding the action plan would be discussed, such as interventions, duration, frequency, etc. This practice is the opposite of the typical meetings that begin with the services the student is receiving. The difference here it that the focus always stays on the student.
9). Plan Ahead:
Parents can plan for the IEP ahead of time by creating a list of any goals, questions, and concerns they would like to discuss. The pre-planning not only assists the parents with creating their own mental picture of what they would like to achieve during the meeting, it also gives them an outlet to practice active team participation.
10). Always Refer Back to the Student:
Any discussions and decisions should always go right back to the student and their needs. Continuously ask questions, such as, How can this help the student? What does the student really need? Is this really beneficial to the student's optimal growth? Finally, parents and district members should always try to understand each others' perspectives, visions and experiences.