Exhausted or upset seeing your child struggle at school and meltdown at home? Has your child been diagnosed with a learning disability, adhd, autism spectrum disorder, or another related disorder and found eligible for special education services and you’re not sure what comes next? Nervous or afraid of attending an IEP or 504 meeting with your child’s school? This can be quite an intimidating process, especially if you aren’t familiar with special education language, procedures, paperwork, and your rights. Below are 5 Do’s and 5 Don’ts to help parents to navigate the process!
Don’t Be Afraid to share your thoughts and concerns
Parents are a vital part of the IEP or 504 team so it is important to share your thoughts as the plan is being developed and throughout the process. The school team is not able to address your concerns unless they are aware of what they are. It can be intimidating to speak up when there are so many school staff involved in meetings, but it is important to do so.
Don’t Be Defensive
There is nothing more important to parents than their children and talking about your child’s challenges and needs can be very difficult and very emotional, however it does not give parents the right to be disrespectful to school staff. It is important to be mindful of the way you are communicating and interacting with school staff so that you do not become defensive which can often appear aggressive or judgemental. Once that happens, it can be difficult to communicate effectively and work together as a team. Be mindful of your verbal and nonverbal communication such as tone and volume of voice and body language
Don’t Withhold Information
If you have outside evaluation results or medical information that would be relevant to your child’s education plan, please share that information with school staff.
Don’t Be The Education Expert
You are the expert on your child-their history, personality, likes/dislikes, etc.. and it is important to remember that the school staff are the experts on education-curriculum, school based supports, accommodations, school schedules, etc…
Don’t Feel Pressured
There are many procedural safeguards and parental rights throughout the IEP process. For example, once an initial IEP plan is developed, a parent has 10 days to review the IEP and provide parental consent so you do not need to feel pressured to sign it at the meeting.
Assume the School is on your team
It is important to remember that schools and parents typically have the same goal in mind-for the student to be successful although sometimes the way parents and school staff envision getting to that goal can be different. It is important to assume a common goal and not engage in us vs. them (home vs. school) mentality.
Communicate with your child’s school team
You are a vital member of your child’s team and it is important to do your part to keep the lines of communication open between school and home. Even when the conversations are difficult, it is important for all members of the team to be valued and heard.
It is ok to ask questions. It is ok to ask the same question more than once! It is important for parents to feel comfortable with the process and the plan that is developed so ask whatever questions you need for that to happen.
Be Flexible and Respectful of the team’s time
While your child’s meeting is very important and the appropriate amount of time should be allocated for it, parents need to remember that while it is the only meeting they are attending, school staff have many, many student meetings. While parents should always feel that there is enough time for their questions to be answered, they must also be respectful of the school staff’s time.
Read Evaluation Reports
Throughout the evaluation process, there may be information and reports that come home for parents to review in preparation for the IEP or 504 meeting. School staff have spent time and energy to provide that information with you and would appreciate it if you are able to take the time to read it.