I think that promoting parent involvement is the key to success for an IEP meeting. I've had parents who really want to take part in the process, parents who are timid and unsure of themselves, and parents who are overwhelmed with raising a child with special needs, never mind taking part in the educational process. No matter what parent "type" you find yourself with, you are responsible for making their participation successful. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Consider sending home a questionnaire before the meeting to have the parents fill out. This might include strengths and weaknesses they are seeing in academics, home life, social skills, behaviors, etc. This may guide you in your IEP prep work for the meeting. Its great to come to a meeting with ideas for the IEP, and if you have already received written parent input, you can even get started drafting the IEP. With a lot of Team members at a meeting, this prep work will save you from going into overtime.
- For particularly involved parents, I have met beforehand 1:1 to go over my goal ideas. this brief meeting allows us to be on the same page for academics os that I can briefly summarize these goals during the meeting and let other service providers focus on their goals during the Team meeting. Sometimes I have kids whose behaviors seem to take the focus of our Team process so this can be a great strategy to actually talk about academics with moms and dads.
- If you are not going to put in the leg work before the meeting, consider coming in with a few choices for parents. This is really great for the timid parents who want to be involved but they would not even know where to start.
- Consider asking parents what the one thing we could work on at school would make a considerable difference for them at home. Is it transitioning, hand washing, making seasonally appropriate clothing choices, folding laundry, using a key in a front door, sustained independent play, etc. This list could go on forever! I teach children in middle school and many of them seem so typical. Then I took them to a theme park and I was shocked, my students had no sense of money handling. Yea they could identify coins and dollars or add money with paper and pen. However, one child handed all her cash to the cashier to figure out how much she owed. Another child kept all of the bills stuffed in his pocket without any sort of organization system and when trying to pay, he took forever finding the right bills. I had never known! Don't forget how much the parents can be of use to tell you these "little" details.
I want to summarize with saying that you may have this child for 1, 2, or even 3 years of his or her life but the parents have him or her for the rest of their lives. Many of the children I work with will never be fully independent. That being said, the educational goals you write is going to GREATLY affect the lives of the parents you are working with. Let them take part in making decisions for educational planning. It is not supposed to be a few curriculum standards: it is an individualized education plan to fill in the holes that the typical curriculum is not fully fulfilling. Woo tongue twister.
Hope this helps you take the first steps in parent involvement!