A fundamental component of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is including parents as decision makers in their children's school experience. The rationale for parent involvement is strong. Parents advocate for their children's best interests. Their involvement in the educational process increases the accountability of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team. Finally, the appropriateness of the IEP is enhanced by parental input (Turnbull & Turnbull, 1998).
Strategies can be put into place early in the school year to enhance collaboration between parents and teachers. Parents can take the following actions:
Schedule conferences with special education and general education teachers early in the school year and periodically throughout the school year. Conferencing can take the form of one-on-one or team meetings, telephone conferences, or email communication. Conferencing allows for the exchange of ideas and provides a venue for discussing current student celebrations as well as concerns.
Request a Parental Input form from your child's special education teacher. As members of the IEP team, parents have valuable information needed to write an appropriate IEP. The Parental Input form documents parents' input concerning their child's: (a) strengths and weaknesses, (b) social and behavioral concerns, (c) characteristics of learning style, (d) testing accommodations required, and (e) classroom accommodations that bring school success. The Parental Input form is best completed a month before the draft IEP is written. Should a form not be available from your special educator, write a letter addressing these five areas or request a conference in advance of the IEP team meeting to communicate your child's interests and your concerns.
Make arrangements with the special education teacher to have a draft IEP sent home a week before the IEP team meeting. Read it over carefully to ensure that it captures your interests and concerns. Make corrections and additions, if necessary. Then, return the draft to your child's special education teacher for final drafting before the IEP team meeting.
Conferencing, use of the Parental Input form, and creating a draft IEP are collaborative strategies that produce valuable outcomes:
- Open communication between parents and teachers
- Effective and focused IEPs
- Efficient IEP team meetings
- Greater trust and respect among parents, teachers, and students
Turnbull, III, R.H., & Turnbull, A. P. (1998). Free appropriate public education: The law and children with disabilities (5th ed.). Denver, CO: Love Publishers.
Date: November/December 2003