Not Your Average IEP: A New Service for Special Education Meetings

Not Your Average IEP: A New Service for Special Education Meetings

The annual special education meeting for your child can feel daunting. As parents, we want to make sure we are able to ensure the best for our kids. Many times, however, we are unsure of how the meeting will go. What if there was a way to make the whole process feel more comfortable? The parents who braved the cold weather the Tuesday before Thanksgiving found out how to do just that. They were treated to a fantastic presentation on how the Facilitated IEP, a new state program, can help make parents feel more confident with the IEP meeting.

Michael McElherne and Sherry Colegrove from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) shared how the Facilitated IEP process can promote collaboration and bring attention to student needs. ISBE State Facilitators are specifically trained in the IEP process and how to help parents and teams prepare for a successful meeting. The free service allows for a trained professional to lead the team to consensus for each component of the IEP.

A facilitated IEP is available upon request by a parent or district. The facilitator is a well-prepared and respectful neutral third-party who utilizes problem solving strategies for a smoother meeting. They are an expert in special education and are specifically trained to help teams communicate with each other.  

Prior to the meeting, the facilitator will contact the parent and district representative individually to gather and share information. Typically, information will be requested one week prior to the meeting. With this information, the facilitator can develop and share a meeting agenda, preferred outcomes, and group norms. The facilitator will also assemble materials for the team, including graphics, charts, and other visual tools.

On the day of the meeting, the facilitator will arrive early to set up materials. They will begin the meeting with an overview, including outlining the agenda, explaining the visual tools available for the meeting, and describing their role. Throughout the process, they will actively listen and keep the conversation on track by recording decisions, being mindful of time, and confirming agreements made. Facilitators emphasize “no surprises.” Changes or deviation from the agenda should be discussed at another scheduled meeting.  Finally, the team will review their recorded decisions at the end of the meeting and assure that agreements have been made on all items.

Overall, parents and districts have been satisfied with the IEP facilitation process. With this type of meeting, parents and team members are better prepared and have an equal voice. In addition, meetings tend to have reduced contention, allowing for more student-focused and positive outcomes. To request or learn more:

Email: scolegro@isbe.net

Telephone: (866) 262-6663

Website: https://www.isbe.net/Pages/IEP-Facilitation-System.aspx