KINDness in Special Education

By Kearney Doherty, Education Consultant, Master IEP Coach® and mom August 5, 2022

Have you ever felt frustrated, anxiety-ridden, or just plain angry when walking away from the IEP table?  When working as an IEP team, it is assumed that the team includes all parties and their input. Does this meeting you just attended seem like all voices were heard?  Where did the collaborative spirit go?  

Let’s work to bring the KINDness back to the IEP process.  We talk all the time about spreading kindness. We teach our children about the importance of being kind and show them what it means to be a part of a team.  When we sit at the IEP table, we are on a team.  Is the kindness we talk about practiced here?  Do we need to rethink this practice??

There is kindness in the IEP process, unfortunately, it is lost at times.  As a former Special Educator, I have participated in countless meetings where the IEP team has collaborated together and respected each other with a common goal in mind.  This is what the IEP team process should consist of.  The goal is for your child to be prepared for further education, employment, and independent living.  As a team, we should be focused on this goal. 

K. I. N. D. can be broken down into steps that everyone can agree to bring the goal back into vision. 

Keep the focus on your child- remembering that all members of the team are there for the same reason, to help and support your child. Whether they are parents, teachers, administrators, or therapists, they are sitting at the table because they have a vested interest in your child.  Setting the purpose or goal of the meeting and using child-focused words, in the beginning of the meeting, can help focus the team's efforts and bring the efforts to the forefront.  

Interact respectfully- Emotions can run high.  This is your child.  Disagreements can cause discord.  We don’t always have to agree, however, we can agree to disagree.  Engage in a respectful manner in order to maintain working relationships and open communication.  It’s ok to say ‘No’ just in a polite way.  Positive relationships create positive outcomes in all environments. It is important to keep the team environment a positive one so communication is flowing for the sake of the child.  

Notice each other- We all bring different knowledge, experience, and strengths to the IEP table. As a parent, you know the child better than anyone else as well as their history and life outside of school.  Other professionals at the IEP table have their own expertise in areas that allow them to work with your child and speak to his/her strengths and needs in that area.  Listen and appreciate the role of each member.  Together the cohesive team is working collaboratively to support your child.  

Discuss the data- Use the data from assessments and ongoing progress monitoring to drive decision-making.  As a team, use the information as a starting point and have conversations about what supports and services are needed.   This is a time to work collaboratively and problem-solve creatively.  Think outside the box to come up with solutions to support your child using their strengths in the school environment.  

In every interaction you have with an IEP team member, these techniques can be considered. Whether it is a meeting, an email, or phone conversation, you can relate these KIND actions.  

Throughout my Special Educator career, I have been in many positive meetings and interactions with IEP teams.  I have seen the other side too.  Using these practices, I have kept the positive relationships with team members, open communication, and the goal of the student so that there was limited hindrance within the IEP process.    

About the Author:

Kearney Doherty is an Education Consultant, Master IEP Coach® and mom. My services are geared to support you in understanding the special education process to become your child’s best advocate with confidence. After working as a special educator and administrator for over fifteen years, I continue to work for children and their families so that their needs are met in the schools.

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If you liked this and want more IEP strategies, then you’ll love these episodes of the Special Education Inner Circle podcast: