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Incorporating Parental Input in Individualized Education Programs

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has an Masters of Science in Mathematics and a Masters in Education

Individualized education programs (IEP) are special services outlining the components being used to address a student's educational needs, including parents. Learn how parents are included in the development and implementation of IEPs. Updated: 12/13/2021

What Is an IEP?

Earlier in the year, David was identified as a student who consistently struggles with learning. His teacher, Ms. Black, initiated a screening process to determine if David qualified for special services. After a series of tests, a team of professionals and David's parents met to talk about his strengths and struggles and to make decisions concerning his academic future. The screening, testing, and meeting are part of a legal process to ensure that all students receive an equal and quality education, even if they have special needs, like David.

Because his screening results and academic history qualify David for special services, an individualized education program (IEP) is created. This document serves as a guide for David's education. Created during the initial IEP meeting by a committee of professionals, including his parents and others knowledgeable of David's abilities, such as teachers and therapists, the document is a lawful plan. Let's focus on the vital role parents play in the development of the IEP.

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  • 0:04 What Is an IEP?
  • 1:07 Parents and the IEP
  • 2:45 Understanding Parents
  • 4:33 Incorporating Parental Input
  • 6:05 Lesson Summary
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Parents and the IEP

In 1975, a law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), was passed. IDEA is the legal process that ensures disabled students, like David, receive educational services appropriate for their needs.

Part of IDEA establishes the rights and responsibilities of parents as important members of the IEP committee. Parents are viewed as a vital part of the process, and schools are required to give parents an active role in decisions regarding their child's services as written in the IEP.

Let's return to David's situation. David's parents are intimidated by this process at first, but after doing a bit of research they find that there are many benefits to their involvement in David's IEP, including:

  • Parents' background knowledge of their child gives the committee valuable insight
  • Educators get a glimpse into the child's home life
  • A team atmosphere is generated
  • Increased communication among the IEP team is established
  • Educational goals that include all aspects of the child's development can be written

For example, because David's parents are involved in the IEP committee, they offer the team knowledge of David's developmental history before he became a student at the school, such as delays in his beginning to talk or walk, among other benchmarks. Educators gain a better understanding of David's home life and the amount of support his parents are able to offer. By working together, the committee can cover all bases to create a solid IEP, including developing methods for effective communication between the school and parents and writing goals that are most beneficial to David as a whole child.

Understanding Parents

Like we saw with David's parents, sometimes parents can be intimidated, overwhelmed, or react negatively to the idea of their child receiving special services. It's important for educators to understand that parents may have these feelings, and not interpret their hesitations as a lack of interest. Teachers need to support parents in the IEP development process and make sure they feel comfortable. They should understand there are many barriers that prevent parents from being active participants. These can include:

Parents misunderstand or feel intimidated by the school system

Sometimes parents have a negative view of the education system and may not trust that educators have their child's best interest in mind. They may also not understand the words used when communicating with them, terms like 'mainstream' or 'inclusion.' If parents become confused or fear they will look ignorant, they may be less likely to participate. They may worry they'll hurt their child's chances of success.

Parents may feel they aren't able to help their child

Some parents may feel that because they are not education experts, they don't have any information educators will find useful. They fail to realize how important their knowledge of the student as a child is to the process. Parents of certain cultural backgrounds may feel uncomfortable being on equal ground with professionals as they consider teachers an authority figure.

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