Thursday, February 22, 2024

‘I Dread Being at This Desk.’ How one can Enhance the IEP Course of (Opinion)

Most lecturers, and plenty of dad and mom, are effectively conscious of IEPs, or individualized teaching programs.

At this time, an educator and mum or dad shares her expertise remodeling the standard IEP course of and assembly.

Navigating the IEP Assembly

Brandi Hinnant-Crawford is an affiliate professor of instructional management at Clemson College and the writer of Enchancment Science in Schooling: A Primer. She is the mom of 10-year-old twins—Elizabeth Freedom and Elijah Justice Crawford:

Nausea. Nervousness. Guilt. Despair.

Your baby can not . . .

Your baby ought to be capable of . . .

Your baby is testing at # grade ranges behind . . .

Each spring, I attend an annual evaluation of my daughter’s IEP. I sit round with lecturers I am keen on and belief, directors I respect, and professionals whose opinions and experience I worth. But, my coronary heart races, my abdomen churns, my eyes water. I do know these well-intended educators try to create space in a spot not designed for youngsters like mine. I dread being at this desk. Each. Single. Time.

Educators know the way to sofa suggestions. So, IEP conferences usually begin with all of the adults saying constructive issues in regards to the baby. “What a pleasure she is to be round.” “Her smile is infectious.” “I like to listen to her sing.” All of which inflates my spirit earlier than the onslaught of statements telling me the myriad methods my child is failing. At its core, the IEP course of is deficit-oriented, searching for to supply fixes for neurodivergent and bodily (dis)abled kids.


The People with Disabilities Schooling Act ensures kids who’re otherwise abled entry to a free and applicable schooling within the least restrictive atmosphere. A technique it ensures that is by way of individualized teaching programs, paperwork written and revised yearly to information the kid’s instructional expertise. IDEA statute outlines eight parts of an IEP in 20 USC § 1414 (d)(1)(b). Paraphrased for brevity, the eight parts are:

1. Little one’s current efficiency

2. Measurable annual objectives

3. Progress monitoring towards these objectives

4. Providers offered

5. Clarification of any time a baby just isn’t in a mainstream atmosphere

6. Lodging on assessments

7. Date for starting companies

8. As soon as age 16, postsecondary plans and transition planning

IDEA is criticized for having an “extreme give attention to course of over substance” (Bagenstos, 2009, p.122). That is due partly to the Board of Schooling v. Rowley (1982) choice that said, “Full participation of involved events all through the event of the IEP . . . demonstrates the legislative conviction that enough compliance with the procedures prescribed would most often guarantee . . . what Congress wished in the way in which of substantive content material in an IEP” (Yudoff et al., 2002, p. 706).

Full participation is tough when your heartbeat is louder than the individuals talking within the room. How can we mitigate the emotional toll in IEP conferences so they don’t change into a web site of trauma and spirit-murdering for youngsters and households however an area of crucial hope and prophetic creativeness in regards to the prospects of faculty?

My baby is a fifth grader, and I’ve been attending IEP conferences since earlier than kindergarten. I’ve picked up methods alongside the way in which to share with educators and households alike to navigate the inevitably emotional technique of IEP conferences.

Lesson One: By no means go alone. As a guardian, your nerves are wound tight earlier than you stroll within the room. Take somebody with you who may help you hear and show you how to ask questions. Meet with that particular person beforehand and share your issues or priorities; that approach, in case your feelings inhibit your full participation, the individual with you possibly can stand within the hole. Educators, even when you don’t understand the room as intimidating and the content material as overwhelming, encourage households to convey a pal.

Lesson Two: Put together for the assembly (to the extent attainable). In 2019, I made a decision I’d by no means go into an IEP assembly with no plan. I developed a one-page handout that confirmed my baby’s studying degree and the place the state’s Learn to Obtain regulation needed her to be. I additionally modified the language from deficit- to asset-based, naming her strengths and alternatives for progress, and I introduced my very own methods to the assembly. Having my very own cheat sheet ensured as feelings flared my concepts had been shared with everybody.

Educators, it might assist immensely should you touched base with households previous to the assembly may help them put together. Sending progress experiences and even prompts to debate with their baby about their expertise might be instruments to assist households really feel extra ready. Additionally, deliberately make area in conferences for households to articulate their priorities earlier than listening to educators’ ideas; the facility dynamics could make individuals really feel as if they should comply with the recommendation of the consultants and they’re there to hear greater than contribute.

Lesson Three: Full Participation. As IDEA outlines the IEP crew, which incorporates educators and households, 20 USC § 1414 (d)(1)(c)(vii), the crew ought to embody “each time applicable, the kid with the incapacity.” However when can we deem it’s applicable and the way do they take part? I had the lucky alternative to take a seat on the toes of Beverly Jenkins and Heidi Hata from the System Enchancment Leads Community Enchancment Neighborhood and hearken to their tales of enhancing IEP outcomes and processes in a number of districts in California. They aimed to enhance the variety of college students assembly their IEP objectives; one catalyst for enchancment launched by the Clovis Unified college district’s particular schooling crew was methods to incorporate college students within the assembly. After making a developmental development for involvement for college students with every kind of (dis)talents, in addition they created templates so the scholar couldn’t solely take part however lead the IEP assembly.

As one who believes in stealing good concepts, I borrowed the slide present template and shared it with my daughter the night time earlier than her IEP assembly. She crammed within the slides all the way down to what footage she needed to incorporate. The template requested to call her strengths, hobbies, objectives, dis(capacity), it’s impression on studying, and the way she learns greatest. The disabilities motion has championed the mantra “Nothing about us with out us,” and I’m ashamed that for years I had tried to talk for Elizabeth. Elizabeth had solutions for each immediate.

The assembly started along with her presentation. She set the tone and shifted the ambiance. No nausea, no tears, no nervousness. We started with an indication of her capabilities, not her deficiencies. Each baby could not current, however each baby might be current.


Picture by Brandi Hinnant-Crawford

It is very important be aware the technique employed was developed by educators, particular educators, who interact on this work day by day. Educators (in collaboration with households and college students) possess the ingenuity and the magic to reimagine education and disrupt practices that result in poor outcomes and unhealthy experiences. I don’t consider the times of adverse IEP conferences are behind me, however I’ve a number of methods I can make use of to assist me be the perfect advocate for my baby.

Some view IEPs as paperwork, others a coverage processes, nevertheless it has the potential to be a transformative participatory praxis. For it to be transformative, we should navigate the inevitably emotional course of to make sure full participation and co-design of individualized instructional applications that capitalize on the belongings and insights of the scholars themselves.


Bagenstos, S. (2009). The judiciary’s now-limited position in particular schooling. In J. Dunn & M. West (Eds.), From Schoolhouse to Courtroom Home: The Judiciary’s Position in American Schooling (pp. 121–141). Brookings Institute Press.

Yudof, M., Kirp, D., Levin, B., & Moran, R. (2002). Instructional Coverage and the Regulation (Fourth ed.). Wadsworth Cengage Studying.

Due to Brandi for contributing her ideas!

The brand new query of the week is:

What recommendation would you give to folks and lecturers about IEP conferences?

Take into account contributing a query to be answered in a future put up. You may ship one to me at If you ship it in, let me know if I can use your actual identify if it’s chosen or should you’d want remaining nameless and have a pseudonym in thoughts.

You too can contact me on Twitter at @Larryferlazzo.

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