1. Build effective communication: Most recently I was assigned testing a student for special education services. Prior to the formal meeting to discuss findings, I invited parents to a pre-meeting to educate parents on specific vocabulary that they would be hearing in the meeting, ways to interpret scores from tests both standardized and scaled scores as well as what they would experience with behavior scales.
I began the pre-meeting with some history of who I was both professionally and personally. Parents shared the history of their child’s education and their academic concerns. They also shared their hopes and personal interests. We discussed and agreed on the best ways to communicate effectively and respectfully.
I reviewed my academic assessment as well as the psychologists report. We discussed qualification for special education services being a team decision. Parents left the meeting informed and had an opportunity to do their own research prior to the initial formal meeting.
2. Be trustworthy: Make every opportunity for transparency available. Don’t have any hidden agendas. You build trust as you experience the other person as someone who is sincere, safe, reliable, and respectful of you and your needs. Let parents understand that you have their child’s best interest at heart and you are open and willing to help. Consider sharing your home number so that if parents have burning questions on the weekend they can be addressed. I share my home number regularly and in 30 years of working in special education it has never been abused. People like to be heard and it is just one simple strategy for building trust.
3. Be respectful: Realize that an IEP team is just that—a team. Respect takes place when we consider others rights, values, boundaries, feelings and sensitivities as we interact. Prior to speaking try to understand what is being said from the other person’s point of view. Address and acknowledge the other person’s point of view. In a respectful relationship both parties need to be willing to share their opinion without attacking or damaging the relationship.
4. Create shared goals: Parents are an integral part of the IEP process. Make sure to ask them what their goals are for their child in the present as well as the future. Be sure to educate parents along the way so that they know what to expect academically. Two great resources are State Standards/Common Core Assessments by grade level. These resources will allow parents to see where their child is compared to their peers.
5. Be consistent: Understand that process exist to support students, staff and parents. It allows a team to be effective and consistent and assures quality and efficiency. Establish boundaries for meeting norms and stick to them. Always have one another’s best interest at heart and mutual intention will be realized. My grandmother used to tell me that when we are honest and our expectations are not to take advantage of someone but instead are truly mutually satisfying, then true joy is achieved.