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Avoiding Enemies at the IEP Meeting

Parents can sometimes feel like the enemy.

Some parents make you angry, furious, insecure, and, most of all, make you want to cry and quit your job.

Communication is key

I once had a parent request a meeting. This parent was forceful, direct, and somewhat intimidating. She accused me of not seeing her child for 17 sessions. Since I had not given homework, she somehow thought that no homework equated to me not being present. Once I asked if she had seen the stamps on her child’s hand, she perked up and said, “Gosh, they are there all the time.”

“That was me,” I explained. Then I walked her through the activities that we were doing and said that I honestly didn’t know how to give homework that didn’t involve a lot of explanation. She agreed that she wouldn’t have known what to do. An hour and a half later, I had won the mother's respect, and she had converted me to a parent believer.

She also said something to me that I will never forget, “I am my child’s best advocate. If I don’t stay on top of this, no one else will.” She also told me that the squeaky wheel gets greased. I have shared this sentiment with parents along the way who have felt that they have no voice.

Another parent scolded me at the end of the year, saying he hadn’t received any communications from me, except that he had received them from me. Another parent waited until the end of the school year to ask if I shouldn’t have been the one to help with spelling as her child had a disorder related to sound management. After those incidents, I made sure to tell parents at every IEP meeting that I can’t fix what I don’t know.

What Do Parents Want?

To. Be. Heard.

Parents are worried. They believe that they are the cause for their child’s misfortunes. They sometimes don’t recognize simple problems from gargantuan ones. The parent’s reactions to news heard at an IEP meeting can be confounding for the teachers and staff as they don’t understand why the parent may be overreacting or under-reacting.

Parents Want to be Assured.

Will their child be a productive member of society? Sometimes the answer is “no.” Imagine if someone implied or told you that your child wouldn’t amount to anything. Finding ways to assure parents without being unethical provides a working relationship for you and the parent.

Parents Want to know that the People who work with their Child Care for their Child.

Everyone receiving a service wants to think that the person providing the service woke up in the morning thinking about how great it will be to serve the XX Family!

Parents Want Some Choices.

They don’t wish to supply treatment choices, especially. But when there is a chance to provide accommodations, they would love that choice.

Parents Want Their Children To Be as Typical as Possible.

Can you find ways in which the child you serve is like every other child you see?

It’s Not Your Fault, but it’s Not Their Fault Either.

Once anyone has lousy service, it’s challenging to go back to being agreeable. Suppose I supply an example of the car repair service. Some of you readers will have a negative thought.

Now imagine that the parent is fearful about their child’s future. They don’t understand the words that the team is using. Heck, they don’t know what IEP means. They sense that the team suspects there is something terribly wrong with their child, and they also suspect that the team blames them. In their shoes, most of us would react the way that they did. Even though the energy may have been misguided, their actions are explainable.

Making the Best of the Situation

For change to take place, a mindset has to be changed. Once working with a difficult parent, some related service providers met the parent for coffee at a local breakfast place. The team decided to tell the parent about the things that excited them concerning their child’s performance. The parent's body language eased as the related service people began to share their excitement and interest in the child's progress. That's what the parent wanted all along.

You see, when parents know that you care about their child, they can overlook little things. When you know that you care about their child, you, too, can overlook the little things and some of the big things.

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