Never Forget How Important Parents are to the IEP Process by Aubrey Lynn

Updated: Feb 15, 2020

They are a vital piece, an important cog in the special education machine. In fact, they are probably more like the fuel than anything else – pushing everyone along to get their child where they need to be. They are typically the ones who start the process in action and they are the advocates that keep the machine going in the right direction. They are the first ones to notice when the machine is malfunctioning or when it needs some oil to run smoothly. Sometimes as a special educator our case management roles become very clinical. We know we have 10 days for this or 45 days for that, etc. etc. We know the laws in and out and we sometimes get stuck in the paperwork rut. We write an IEP, present it and take meeting minutes without batting an eye. We present “just the facts,” out of the sake of efficiency and time constraints as we know every minute outside of our classroom may mean WWIII has begun. But if we take a minute, (if we can find one) and take a step back, we can realize that the most important IEP team member is a student’s parents. The ones that know their child the best. And that is why I have written this post. To honor the parents that we sometimes forget, or overlook the important role they play.

Top 10 Reasons to be Involved in your child’s IEP

1. Research has proven that parent involvement in education is a predictor of a child’s academic success;

2. Good communication between parent and school will alert you to whether any changes such as new goals need to be added to the IEP;

3. Respect between school and parents will help negotiations run smoother;

4. Keeping track of your child’s ability to complete classwork and homework will alert you to whether your child is accessing the curriculum;

5. Making sure your child is in the proper placement will help your child access the curriculum;

6. Addressing academic discrepancies early will allow your child to catch up in the future;

7. Working on goals in both the School and Home environment consistently will help your child achieve better success;

8. Keeping track of your child’s services will let you know whether the school is out of compliance;

9. Parents and teachers share the same goal of preparing your child for independent living, post-secondary education and employment; and

10. Your child’s future is at stake.

For the Educator - What we know about Family Engagement

• Family engagement is about building relationships with families. It is not a specific curriculum or program. It is a way of meeting families where they are, and giving them opportunities to design how they would like to promote their children’s learning and development from infancy through early adulthood. Family engagement can take different forms and happens anywhere, anytime children learn.

• Family engagement builds on family strengths. It recognizes that families have the knowledge, skills, and values that can contribute to making libraries better learning spaces for all. Just as families can learn from librarians, so, too, can librarians learn from families.

• Family engagement is not a one-size-fits-all process. Activities are tailored to community interests, resources, and needs, but also personalized for individual families.

• Family engagement invites meaningful participation. It offers learning experiences with rather than for families. It is not about teaching, but about creating family interactions through programs and services.

• Family engagement is intentional. It is planned and based on research following the core principles and practices that support meaningful and effective family engagement.

• Family engagement is systemic. The elements of leadership, engagement, and support function together to ensure libraries reach, serve, and involve families as partners in children’s lifelong learning. As with any system, a change in one of these elements affects the others.

Theory of Change

A car, for example, is composed of many parts— an engine, transmission, brakes, body, and so forth—but it is more than any one of them. The parts of a car have to connect and work together as a whole to function. Furthermore, a car operates in an environment of roads, regulations, other types of vehicles, and in a diversity of settings, such as urban and rural roadways. All of these affect how and when drivers reach their destination. In a similar way, implementing family engagement is about making the elements and practices function together so that families’ library experiences inspire and motivate them to take an active role in children’s learning.

The framework represents a theory of change that begins with a set of elements—leadership, engagement, and support services—that build a pathway for family engagement beginning in the early childhood years and extending through young adulthood.

Leadership is the commitment of everyone within the classroom to support family engagement. This means creating possibility for family engagement, expanding programs and services within the classroom, working in partnership with other community organizations, and being dedicated to continuous improvement. Leadership also means building professional capacity for family engagement, securing resources, and ensuring that all families have equitable access to and use of library resources.

Engagement is a process with many parts: reaching out to families, raising up their voices, reinforcing family actions to support learning, helping families relate to one another, and re-imagining partnerships to support family engagement.

Support services involve the collections, technology, and physical spaces, both within and outside the library, that make family engagement happen.

Show your students’ parents that you care and they are much more likely to fight for you later on. Genuinely show that you have a vested interest in their child’s education. Build a rapport with the parents. Be as helpful as you can within your capabilities. Ask if they need assistance with any of the IEP process. Offer support that you are qualified to give and do not give out unsolicited advice. Autism parents receive far too much advice that they did not ask for. So show some tact and understanding. Do what you can, help as you can, and your students’ parents are bound to give you the respect back in turn. And because that respect is reciprocal, your parents will be much more likely to help you out when you need it.

You can listen to Aubrey Lynn on her podcast: Lessons and Lattes

or follow her on Twitter @spedteacheriam

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