IEP Collaboration Techniques

The IEP process can be a stressful event for any parent or guardian, but it shouldn't. Remember, the purpose of an IEP is to determine what programs, services and modifications will help your child achieve success despite their qualifying condition. IEP collaboration strategies can help your meeting go smoothly while fostering a positive relationship with your school district.


Conflict occurs when the process is not well understood, perceptions rooted in "us" versus "them", or there is a lack of structure or time.  We all saw how mask mandates resulted in extreme division and conflict in school districts around America. Regardless of the issue, we must view each other as partners when it comes to educating our children and special education is no exception. Many parents fail to realize that special education law, known as IDEA, mandates that a parent be an active member of the IEP team and that the creation of an IEP result from the collaborative efforts of both parents and the representatives from the school district. If you choose not to participate in passively attend, you are not only giving up your voice, but your child’s as well.

Many parents view schools as the enemy due to their own childhood experiences in education. These need to be left at home or addressed as they will get in the way of your child's educational plan. Remember, schools have dramatically changed in the last twenty years. If you have feelings of betrayal, anger or injustice, chances are you child will pick up on these and view school as the enemy. This is counterproductive to helping your child receive their best educational experience. 


  • Remembering you have come together for a common reason (your child)
  • Let everyone have a voice and be heard
  • Communicate openly with respect
  • Assume good intentions
  • Value each team members
  • Trust the process
  • Practice effective listening skills


  • Focus on the problem, not the person
  • Be open to new ideas.
  • Ask clarifying questions if you need more information.
  • Find common ground and recognize each other's efforts
  • Sometimes it’s okay to decide that an issue cannot be solved
  • Pick solutions that both sides agree upon.
  • Verbally agree to come back to an issue at a later time


  • Be prepared for the IEP meeting
  • Ask for more time if needed
  • Ask questions! Don’t feel embarrassed to ask for more clarification. You should be able to comfortably explain what happened at the IEP to someone who wasn’t there.
  • Try to keep your emotions at home. If you feel yourself getting emotional, ask for a quick break. Remember, anger is an emotion!
  • Refer to your child by name during the meeting.
  • Make sure you understand who, what, where, when and why.
  • Keep notes and refer to them if necessary.
  • Be polite and show respect

If the meeting does not go well or you are not in agreement with the recommendations made by the IEP team, before you call an attorney or jump to the due process phase, try having another IEP meeting. You can request a different group of people make up the IEP team. or you can have the meeting take place at the district office instead of the school site.

Remember that the educational system is based on a hierarchy usually consisting of the following positions:

  • ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENTS (Secondary and Elementary)
  • DIRECTORS (Heads of departments, including Special Education)
  • PROGRAM SPECIALISTS (assigned to specific schools or regions)

Don’t be afraid to ask for another meeting and request that a specific person be present. Their job is to ensure that your child is receiving appropriate services.

If you do not agree with the evaluation conducted by your school district, you can contact the Director of Special Education and request an Independent Education Evaluation (IEE). The district is required to pay for this at no cost to you. Or, you can ask for a new evaluation the following year. 

If you've exhausted all of your efforts at IEP collaboration, try mediation. This is a highly effective technique that is less adversarial than a due process hearing. Of course, if all efforts fail, you have the right to file for due process.

If the district has violated a legal duty or fails to follow the requirements outlined in IDEA, you should file a formal complaint. You have one year to file a complaint after the violation has occurred.

REMEMBER...90% of conflicts are resolved with IEP collaboration strategies or mediation. These are highly effective in negotiating for special education services.

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