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Rochelle’s Special Education Tips
By the Light of the Silvery Moon
Dim Those Lights
There are still over 4 months left of school and the unwarranted anger level of some parents at IEP team meetings is really rising. You can control whether the IEP is being implemented, whether you are providing an appropriate reading program, and whether you addressed bullying allegations. But you have no control over anger caused by family dynamics, family issues, unemployment of a parent, the existence of the child’s disability, the drug use of a parent or child, or the parent’s personal educational history that has soured the parent on special education. So what can you do to try to make a meeting as productive and pleasant as possible under the circumstances? Perhaps you can:
- Turn off the overhead lights. This will make the meeting room seem calmer. A table lamp creates a better ambiance than overhead lights.
- Have coffee, tea and cookies available. Not for every meeting, but just for these difficult meetings.
- Greet the parents when they enter the room by shaking their hands.
- Take regular breaks during the meeting. Breaking every hour is not unreasonable.
- When a meeting is going to uncomfortably delay lunch, take a 30 minute lunch break.
- When the parent becomes loudly confrontational, lower your voice.
- Take a 5 minute break when the parent becomes overly confrontational.
- Call each other by your last names (Ms. ___; Mr. ____). Do not call the parent “Mom.” You are not friends at these meetings; you are professionals dealing with “customers.” Formality tends to result in better behavior.
- The long meetings tend to become unproductive and frustration builds. The limit should be 3 hours. After 3 hours, reschedule. If 2 hour limits work better for you, then put the limit at 2 hours. Announce the ending time at the start of the meeting.
But no matter what, you must continue to refute false allegations made at meetings, and be sure to note your rejection of the allegations in the PWN. This may cause anger, but you have to do it. (“I’m sorry, but I must disagree with what you just said. What happened is . . . .”)