Encouraging Family Involvement in the IEP Process

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  • 0:04 Introduction to IEPs
  • 0:41 The Parent's Role
  • 1:52 Encouraging Family Involvement
  • 5:23 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amanda Wiesner-Groff

Amanda has created and taught English/ESL curricula worldwide, has an M.Ed, and is the current ESOL Coordinator for the Saint Louis Public School District.

Going through the IEP process can sometimes be challenging and overwhelming for everyone involved. This lesson focuses on the role of parents as well as providing tips for encouraging their involvement throughout the IEP process.

Introduction to IEPs

Becoming familiar with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) can become quite frustrating and sometimes even overwhelming because of the various steps and processes involved. For family members, this can be even more difficult as paperwork and meetings include unfamiliar language, acronyms, and goal-setting measures.

In this lesson, we go over the different roles parents can and should take in the IEP process. We also discuss methods for encouraging family involvement throughout the entirety of the process so everyone is on the same page when it comes to advocating for the student's best interests.

The Parent's Role

The parent's role in the IEP process is extremely important because they are the expert in understanding the student as a person, which is different from how they appear in class or on paper. The parent is there to support not only their child, but also the team members who may not know the child personally.

Throughout the IEP process, the parent's role is to:

  • Communicate openly with the student about the individualized program and show united support with the IEP team
  • Provide information about the student's behaviors, weaknesses, strengths, and interests so that team members are aware of areas with which his/she are unfamiliar
  • Provide details about the student's self-regulating skills, such as any assistance or modifications the student may need in order to achieve tasks or goals, or any assistance the student may need to reach anticipated post-school goals
  • Attend all meetings, provide all requested documents, complete all requested questionnaires and assessment forms, be honest and forthcoming with details pertaining to the student's behaviors and skills outside of school
  • Be a committed equal partner in all areas of the IEP planning, dialogue, and decision-making

Encouraging Family Involvement

The IEP process can be intimidating to those unfamiliar with the terminology and acronyms, and the great amount of paperwork can be daunting. These factors alone can leave many families turning away from being actively involved in the process. Without a true understanding of what an IEP is, many families may assume they are being told their child has a mental disability, is not good enough, or that their child was raised wrong. The following tools can help put family members' minds at ease and help them feel supported, rather than concerned.

IEP Workshop

Provide an IEP workshop at the school where families can come to learn all about the IEP process. This should be a stress-free evening set up with handouts, pretend examples, and visuals that educate families about the different steps involved in creating and maintaining an IEP.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Hold one at the beginning of the year and then every quarter.
  • Always keep an announcement posted so families are aware when the next IEP workshop is being held.
  • When scheduling, allow a certain block of time for answering any questions or concerns family members may have.
  • Make sure the IEP and administrative team is present for meet and greets with family members who may not have had their first IEP meeting.
  • Have attendees fill out feedback forms scoring the workshop and asking for suggestions on what worked and what could be improved.

IEP Information Guide

Provide a user-friendly IEP guide to all family members that begin the IEP process. The Special Education, IEP, and administrative team should collaborate on the guide's development. With a guide in hand, families may feel more encouraged to be involved. Here are some suggestions for what could be included in the guide:

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