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My Child Has an IEP, Now What?

How to maximize the success of your child's support team.

Public Law 94-142 first introduced Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) into the school system in 1975 (Rice, 2021).

Since then, legislation surrounding parental rights and responsibilities has continuously increased opportunities for advocacy and collaboration (Dusseault et al, 2021). Studies suggest however, that factors such as student age and conditions leading to the creation of an IEP may hinder parental participation in the process (Scanlon et al., 1981). It is important to remember though, that you are your child’s biggest advocate and as such, your engagement in the team process is imperative to IEP success (Grossman, 2020).

Why Focus on the Partnership

Once this initial step is finalized and an individualized plan is in place, you may wonder “Now what?” Focusing on your partnership with treatment providers would be an effective and strategic move. After all, the success of a treatment plan partially lies in the success of the treatment team.

Each member of the treatment team must be purposefully communicative and committed to doing their part. This means that each team member has clarity of roles and responsibilities, as well as full team buy-in of maintaining these roles and responsibilities. Each team member should be actively engaged in the maintenance and upkeep of the treatment plan, as well. There should be alignment of goals, methods, measures, and timeframes within the treatment plan.

Barriers to an Effective Partnership

At times, building and maintaining an effective partnership with treatment providers can prove difficult for caretakers of children with a treatment plan. You may feel as if you are an “outsider” in that you do not have the same insider knowledge or the same experience as the treatment providers. You may feel as if communication is inconsistent, unclear, dismissive, or burdensome for the other members of your child’s team.

You may feel that language, culture, personal, or logistical barriers impede upon team cohesiveness. This can make it difficult to foster and maintain a successful collaborative partnership. However, just as you advocated for the creation of your child’s plan, you can also advocate for its successful implementation through shared efforts and team dedication.

Breaking These Barriers

As the caretaker of a child with a treatment plan, you are a crucial member of the treatment team. Your voice is essential and treatment providers typically prefer hearing your thoughts and using your insights to guide next steps. After all, you provide unique insight into the whole child that no other member of the team has. As such, you should feel confident in strengthening the collaborative process. Some ideas to start include:

  • Learning your rights as the parent/caretaker of a child with an IEP and learning the structure of IEP meetings (Grossman, 2020).
  • Sending a group email that outlines meeting notes, next steps, and appreciation to the team. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page and that any misunderstandings are resolved in a group thread.
  • Making your recognition of each team members’ value known. Small acknowledgements of their contribution to your child’s progress will help in building positive rapport moving forward.
  • Listening, and ensuring that the team members are actively listening as well. At times, team members may be distracted or may be focused on what they want to say. Therefore, it is important that you feel heard and that you allow the other team members to know that you have heard them (summarize their thoughts, make eye contact, ask clarification questions, and ask that they do the same when you are sharing thoughts).
  • If you are not in full agreement, say so. Some caretakers feel uneasy at the thought of making waves but, this should not be a worry. Treatment providers want to hear your opinions and appreciate when caretakers speak up. You again, have unique insight that is critical to the process.
  • Asking the team to provide you with resources or a list of outside supports that you can use to supplement the efforts during the school day.
  • If you have underlying causes to feel mistrust or a desire to disengage, share them through a productive repairing conversation.
  • Being accessible to the team. If need be, open multiple modes of communication to match the specific needs of other team members.
  • Embracing multiple perspectives. Each team member will bring their own ideas and observations. This is one of the beautiful elements of a team approach that should be embraced and encouraged.
  • Actively engaging. If you feel a lull in movement, charge that force.
  • Feeling empowered with the knowledge that you are crucial to the team’s success.


Dusseault, B., Pitts, C., Lake, R., University of Pennsylvania, C. for P. R. in E. (CPRE), & Walton Family Foundation. (2021). Recovery for U.S. Students in 2021: What Schools and Districts Can Do to Make up for Lost Learning Time. In Center on Reinventing Public Education. Center on Reinventing Public Education.

Grossman, E. G. (2020). Taking Control of Your Child’s Iep Experience. Exceptional Parent, 50(1), 43–46.

Rice, N. M. F. (2021). Beyond the IEP meeting: Parents’ perceptions of music education for individuals with exceptionalities [ProQuest Information & Learning]. In Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences (Vol. 82, Issue 2–A).

Scanlon, C. A., Arick, J., & Phelps, N. (1981). Participation in the development of the IEP: parents’ perspective. Exceptional Children, 47(5), 373–374.

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