Parents are responsible to drive their child’s IEP team. I say over and over, “The district is not going to give you everything your child needs or deserves and they are not going to tell you what to ask for or how to get it.”
When parents educate themselves to know how to implement their rights under IDEA, this is when you can become the coach of your IEP team.
Being the coach of your team means you lead with professionalism, respect, high expectations, and collaboration. Your job as a coach is to unify your team toward the goal of working together to see your child progress. This requires a change in your attitude toward district staff members and takes time and effort to develop relationships through communication.
If you think about it, how cohesive would a sports team be if they only met one time a year for an annual game? Well, your IEP team is only required to meet one time a year and most likely, they never collaborate regarding your child other than the day of your Annual IEP meeting. This is why parents should call an amendment at least one time a year to have the team report on progress on goals and review your child’s present levels of performance (PLOP). This will bring your team together to hear how your child is performing in all environments and develop collaboration between all IEP team members.
Parents should be in contact with their case carrier and work with them on a regular basis. This team member is typically a special education teacher on your team who coordinates and oversees your child’s IEP at the school site level. Your case carrier is the person you should be communicating with who can help you when you have a question or concern.
Overall, parents should be in contact with all IEP team members on a regular basis. This can be through emails, discussions, or communication logs. A parent who is in communication with their team members and knows what each member is working on for their child, will gain the respect of district staff. When a parent doesn’t make an effort to talk to their team members and doesn’t even know their name or the services they provide, team members are not going to be on their toes or do their best for that student.
I can assure you, the parents who are involved and informed about what is going on with their child’s IEP and are aware of who is suppose to be doing what, team members will feel more accountable to making progress on goals and providing services with fidelity.
Developing a respectful working relationship with your special education representative is key in becoming the coach of your IEP team. The Special Education representative is the staff member from the district office who facilitates your child’s IEP. Most parents are not even aware of who this person is, much less have a working relationship with them. Your Special Education rep is the district staff member who can make or break the success of your IEP meetings. Call your district rep prior to your meetings and discuss your concerns and requests with them. Invite them to your next meeting and confirm they will be in attendance. Communicate with them through emails and ask for their help you to address your concerns at your IEP meetings.
A parent who is involved and knowledgeable about their child’s IEP, who is cooperative and professional, develops respectful working relationships, and knows how to hold their team accountable to conduct their jobs with fidelity, is a parent who has learned to be the coach of their IEP team. These parents will see their child progressing toward their IEP goals and above all, these are parents who are experiencing successful, efficient and productive IEP team meetings. Isn’t this the goal that every parent advocate dreams about?
When it is time for your next IEP meeting, think about what steps you can take to become the coach of your child’s IEP team.