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Preparing for Team Meetings

- Kelly Shields, special education teacher 

Students with special needs often have an educational team of parents, educators, professionals, and para-professionals assigned to them. When a cohesive educational team exists for a student with special needs, integration will be successful for both the student and the adults who support that child.

Usually, a student with special needs requires more educational team meetings than a "typical" student. It is critical that parents come prepared to team meetings about their child. Teachers acknowledge that parents know their child best and that they have much to learn about the child from the parents. If it is an IEP (Individual Education Plan) meeting, be prepared to share with educators your view of your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Also, be sure to bring any new documentation to the meeting--physician’s reports, occupational therapist recommendations, and speech/language reports are all important sources to consider when planning the student’s education program.

Prior to the meeting, take notes about what you view as short- and long-term goals for the child. For example, "Improvements to the student's understanding of language" may be a long-term goal. Short-term goals related to this particular long-term goal should be contemplated. For example, "Following a simple direction" may be the short-term goal. Send your agenda items to the teacher before the meeting occurs and ask that your items be placed on the meeting agenda.

Ensure that you know the services or programs that your child with special needs will receive. If you believe that your child needs a particular service and it is not being received, ask your educational team why this is the case. If the lack of services is due to budget cutbacks, ask your child’s team to explain the steps you need to take in order to address your concern.

Ideally, IEP reviews should occur in the fall and the spring. However, parents can request other review meetings if they believe the need exists. IEP meetings don’t replace report card meetings. Go to both. Report card meetings give both the parent and the teacher an opportunity to discuss progress, raise concerns, and address issues while they are still manageable.

Invite your child’s teacher and special education assistant to visit the child in his/her home environment; teachers often find this observation helpful in developing the student's educational program. Home/school interactions help the parent and teacher develop a positive relationship, which assures the student that there are several adults that care about him/her.

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