Tips for Happier, More Productive IEP Meetings

As a teacher, having to discuss a child’s deficits with his or her parents can be a very uncomfortable experience. Every parent wants their child to have a successful, happy life and that certainly is possible for students who are challenged with a disability.

Sometimes we are tasked with helping their parents see what wonderful strengths their child possesses. We bring in samples of work that show how much their son or daughter has learned, provide examples of the progress they are making, and speak with pride about their child’s educational victories. Other times, however, we have to discuss what challenges or needs the student is going to require help overcoming in order to achieve that success and happiness.

Often, parents are well aware of these strengths and weaknesses and are happy to work with their child’s teaching team to create a plan to support them, but sometimes things don’t go as smoothly.

An IEP meeting (or any parent-teacher meeting) may turn tense in a hurry if a parent:

* is confused or unaware (either accidentally or deliberately) of what difficulties their child has,
* wants a level of academic success or a career path for their child that might not be possible,
* feels that their child’s teaching team hasn’t done their job to the utmost of their ability,

In these instances, it is our responsibility not only to continue to be honest with parents, but also to find a way to get back to a place where the parent feels like a partner in their child’s teaching team – rather than an unhappy or confused outsider. I have found that this can often be achieved with some very simple communication tips: