Parent-Teacher communication can be challenging at times. Both parents and teachers can feel intimidated by the other person. Sometimes one or the other feels defensive about how well they are helping the unique learner. This is never more evident than during an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting.

Coming together successfully can be difficult. Here are three things both parents and school personnel can do to have a more effective IEP.

Consider the emotional factors ahead of time.

Having a child with special needs can cause an outbreak of all combinations of fears on parents’ part. It can polarize some parents. Each fear is fashioned by the parents’ own life experiences and perceived through their own unique lens.

Here are some ideas to keep in mind:

  • Parents feel sensitive about words used to describe their child. This is true for all types of learners. However, parents with unique learners may feel more sensitive because of their own set of fears around their child’s future.Parents can prepare ahead of time by acknowledging their fears and sensitivity about their child’s future. School staff can think more carefully about the words they choose when they keep this in mind.
  • Teachers may feel defensive. Because there are strong legal requirements for students with disabilities, some parents take an adversarial approach. Rather than working together, they are essentially demanding that the school “fix” their child.As you would expect, this results in a defensive posture on the part of school personnel. It can easily become about making sure everything is done just right, rather than focusing on what the child actually needs.

Choose to view the team and the process as dedicated to the child’s best outcomes.

One mother I know would begin her son’s IEP meeting by thanking everyone for coming and for supporting her son. She shared how scared and alone a parent can feel because they don’t know how to help their child. By expressing her relief and appreciation that each person was willing to help, she set a strong positive tone for the meeting.

This parent and student entered the IEP meeting with the conviction that every other person in the room was on the same team; a team with the goal of helping this student reach his potential. Because the parent wasn’t adversarial, and in fact stated her conviction and gratitude of being on one team, the educational staff was less defensive.

This allowed for real collaboration among all the participants and solutions that truly benefited the student.

Be prepared to compromise.

For the most part, believing in the process of comprise and shared responsibilities can provide the most beneficial and sustainable solution for the student. Comprise can result in the best of solutions, and the most sustainable.

Becoming adept at reaching a compromise is a valuable skill. Reaching a compromise cannot be done by negating your own value or the value and opinions of others. All opinions deserve equal consideration until identified pros and cons can be determined. Becoming adept at reaching a compromise is a necessary skill.

When parents and educational staff can bring this attitude of compromise to the IEP table, the best solution for students can be found.

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Suzanne Cresswell Administrator
Suzanne Cresswell is an occupational and physical therapist who has worked with unique learners for over three decades. Suzanne works to educate and provide proven solutions and strategies to those that parent, instruct and work with unique learners. By creating an understanding of unique learners and their learning behavior, she helps parents, teachers and the students themselves find the ability in learning disability.
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