To be an active partner, parents must be informed. An IEP is a very overwhelming document, and this is coming from someone who had years of undergraduate and graduate classes learning about the legal components as well as years writing and developing IEPs with various team members. As professionals, we get frustrated and have a difficult time keeping up with the continuous changes to the documents and procedures even though this is a part of our daily work. Can you imagine how these documents make parents feel?
Having children doesn’t come with an answer key, and this is especially true if you have a child with a disability. Learning about a disability and all of the service providers that might be beneficial to the family can be utterly exhausting. The school is one of many service providers parents must work with to support their child. The IEP is just one set of documents a parent of a child with a disability must encounter.
Have you ever tried to be someone’s partner in a particular card game and no one had explained the rules to you? Think about how you would feel each time it was your turn to play a card. As a player you might lack confidence, become defensive and even become unwilling to play. Regardless of what specific experiences, you would not walk away feeling like an equal teammate and certainly would not be looking forward to another game at any time soon!
Schools need to invest in a partnership with parents. Helping parents understand the many parts of an IEP is critical in order to incorporate parents as an equal partner during the case conference process. Schools might consider offering IEP training to parent groups or even individual parents on school grounds. Or, if school staff are not able to take this on, another option might be to consider partnering with a local, reputable advocacy agency to help train parents. What a great, collaborative opportunity for schools and advocates creating a shared vision and working together to educate parents. Both of these options go above and beyond the requirement in the law, but when there is research to show that partnering with families will improve student outcomes, can we afford not to invest in these extra efforts?