IEP Meeting Conversation Stoppers
Some of the statements made to parents at IEP meetings are “conversation stoppers”—comments that create barriers and can prevent the IEP team from working cooperatively to develop effective special education services and supports for students with disabilities.
Here are nine common “conversation stoppers,” some information about what may be the real issues of concern and suggestions for how parents can respond in a forceful but respectful way so that planning for their child can move forward.
Stopper #1: “The General Education Teacher Could Not Be Here Today.”
What is the issue?
The vast majority of children with disabilities spend most or all of their school day in general education activities or classrooms. It is essential that the general education teacher be an active IEP team member. This does not mean that parents should expect teachers to leave their classrooms for long periods of time. However, it is reasonable to expect the general education teacher to attend IEP meetings to contribute expertise in setting academic, behavorial and social goals, to advise the team about curriculum and help identify where and when adaptations and accommodation will be needed so that your child can be successful in the general classroom and have meaningful access to the general education curriculum.
Here are possible responses
“Nina is one of Miss Taylor’s students and we think she is doing very well. However, I have no idea if the goals, accommodation and other supports we are suggesting are going to be helpful to Miss Taylor in adapting the curriculum and classroom activities so Nina can be successful. We need to schedule another IEP meeting so that Miss Taylor can attend for at least part of the time.”
“This is the first year my child has been spending a lot of time in a general classroom. I do not want to have IEP meetings without my child’s general education teacher. We can complete the main parts of the IEP and give a draft to Mr. Jones. But then we will need to schedule another IEP Meeting that includes him so that our team is complete.”
Stopper #2: “Your Child Can’t Participate In Academic Classes If He Can’t Pass the State Assessments.”
What are the issues?
Both the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) encourage schools to have high expectations for all students and require schools to provide equal opportunities for students to receive academic instruction. Students with disabilities have a right to have meaningful access to the general curriculum. Parents and IEP teams should work with general education teachers to identify those areas of the curriculum that can and should be incorporated into the student’s IEP and then provide modifications and accommodations through special education services.
Here are possible responses
“It’s absolutely essential that Eric be provided with good instruction in a variety of academic classes in order to meet his IEP goals. We want him to have the same opportunities to learn as all other students at this school, whether he is able to pass the end-of-year assessment or not.”
“We know that we and Eric’s IEP team can determine if Eric will take the regular state assessments or an alternate assessment. Maybe Eric will not reach all the course requirement for this class, but Eric must have the opportunity to learn the same curriculum as the other students.”