After many years of working with students with exceptionalities, a common concern raised among parents is feeling excluded from Individualized Education Program (IEP) team meetings. This could be due to many variables, such as overuse of jargon or a focus on compliance and paperwork, rather than on the student’s needs. Parents may struggle to have adequate time during an IEP meeting to engage in dialogue when the procedural elements get in the way of collaborating as a team on behalf of the student. Many of you have experienced this first hand. Frustrations rise and conflict festers.
A facilitated IEP is an IEP team meeting where a non-biased, impartial facilitator assists with the meeting process. Facilitation is not mediation, nor does using a facilitator forfeit your right to dispute resolution. FIEP is a tool to assist with conflict and disagreements directly related to the IEP, it is a model for effective communication and collaboration strategies, and most importantly, FIEP helps re-direct the conversation back to the needs of the individual child. Fostering a safe environment for idea exchange and for the voice of every team member to be heard by reducing any perceived or real imbalance of power is central to the role of a facilitator. Of the many benefits to parents, a facilitator will lead pre-meetings with families to establish a meeting agenda, develop meeting norms as a proactive way to promote positive behavior, write down off-topic issues during the meeting so that the team can revisit them later, and use a centralized location (flip chart, projector, etc.) to visually chart the order of the meeting, meeting discussion items, and solution-oriented thinking.
Sometimes parents can feel outnumbered in an IEP meeting and may even have a sense that they are excluded from critical decisions regarding their child’s program, supports, and services. The facilitated IEP is intended to lessen these stressors and keep the discussion exactly where it needs to be, on meeting the needs of the individual child. To find out more please visit: https://www.nj.gov/education/specialed/iep/facilitated/