By Karin H. Koukeyan
The Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting is an essential part of the special education experience for school professionals. It allows members of the entire team to come together and develop a plan that focuses on the individual student’s needs. But wait a minute, you say. I’m not an in-person service provider. I’m not physically in the school building like everyone else. How am I supposed to participate in this team process, let alone lead the meeting? Rest assured, our veteran online providers have put together a foolproof guide on leading a successful IEP meeting when you attend virtually.
Arrange good connectivity. Whenever possible, arrange to attend the IEP meeting through videoconferencing, preferably on the same platform the student uses. Attending the call in this format will allow the team to see and hear you, ensuring a more personal experience. In addition, having the parents meet you over the same platform that their child uses to participate in services will engage the parents and establish their confidence in online services. In order to provide an optimum experience, set up a conference line or use the phone for audio back-up. If there are issues with wireless connections or the internet goes out, you can continue the meeting over the phone without skipping a beat.
Minimize background noise. You love the flexibility of working from home so you can spend more time with your kids and take the dog out for a walk during your lunch break. Sounds like a dream job, but as the professional attending these meetings from home, you must go the extra mile. Set aside ample time and make appropriate arrangements for the duration of the meeting so that you can dedicate uninterrupted time to this duty. No one wants to hear a crying baby or a barking dog while they are discussing their child’s needs.
Be prepared. Before the IEP meeting, make sure you are versed in the school’s IEP system, policies, and procedures. Be sure to complete all sections of the IEP that can be completed ahead of time (such as demographic information, test scores, vision and hearing information, etc.). Have separate notes jotted down for the sections that will need input from the team before being entered into the IEP. You may suggest goals to address the student’s area of need according to your assessment data and professional judgment; however, be prepared to develop and finalize the goals during the meeting. Most schools want you to send a “Draft” copy of the IEP ahead of time so that they can print it on paper for the members attending the meeting in person to look over and mark up.
Be specific. No detail is too petty. From how to sign the signature page to procedures for entering meeting notes into the online system, every step of this process should be clearly outlined for you prior to your first meeting. These steps are usually determined between your primary school contact and your PresenceLearning lead clinician and/or Senior Clinical Consultant (SCC). Some schools agree to develop and formalize the IEP electronically in the online system. Other districts may choose to print out a hard copy and write on it in “blue ink” to verify that the IEP was not predetermined, and it was developed on the day of the meeting by a team.
Communicate clearly. Begin the meeting by introducing yourself and allowing all members of the team to take turns with introductions. Set a precedent by having each speaker state their name each time they take a turn speaking. This practice will give context to the content being discussed and improve communication. Observe conversational etiquette by interrupting politely and apologizing when you talk over another speaker. Don’t hesitate to ask for clarifications and repetition of information throughout the IEP meeting.
Oftentimes the IEP meeting may be the first time you connect with the parent and the school staff in “real time.” It is an excellent opportunity to build rapport and become an ambassador of teletherapy. With a little planning and the right resources, you can ensure a successful experience leading IEP meetings remotely.
Karin H. Koukeyan, MS, CCC-SLP, is a Senior Clinical Consultant with PresenceLearning.