Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Procedural Safeguards - The Series - Part VII

Students and facilitator discuss a text in a t...Students and facilitator discuss a text in a typical Shimer College class. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This is the seventh installment in a multi-part series on procedural safeguards under the federal special education law, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. I work a lot in this area, so it is near and dear to my heart. Despite the importance of procedural safeguards. however, many issues in this area are misunderstood. Please let us know if you are enjoying the series.

In this installment, we continue our discussion of dispute resolution in special education.

Facilitated IEPs

In order to help IEP teams reach agreements, several states and districts have been experimenting with facilitated Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings. The use of externally facilitated IEP meetings is a growing national trend. When relationships between parents and schools are difficult, facilitated meetings may be helpful.

While a facilitator does not chair the IEP team meeting, he helps keep members of the team focused on the development of the IEP while at the same time defusing conflicts and disagreements that may arise during the meeting. At the meeting, the facilitator uses a number of communication and other skills that create an environment in which the IEP team members can listen to and consider each other’s suggestions and work together to complete the development of an IEP that will provide FAPE for the child.

The type of person who facilitates the meeting varies. Sometimes, a member of the team will facilitate the meeting. In some cases, a district representative with expert facilitation skills may be called in to help the team complete the IEP process. In other cases, another parent, a trained parent advocate, or support person may facilitate the meeting. Occasionally a student may lead his own IEP meetings.

When IEP teams reach an impasse or meetings are expected to be extremely contentious, however, an independent, trained facilitator not affiliated with the team or school district may be able to help guide the process. The presence of the trained facilitator helps keep the team members on task. The facilitator also is trained in using techniques to help prevent miscommunication and disagreements from derailing the IEP process.

A helpful guide to IEP Facilitation by the TAA Alliance and CADRE may be found here:

All of the materials from the presentations at the National Conference on IEP Facilitation sponsored by CADRE are available here.

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  1. I have had IEPs that have facilitators. Different times parents have requested one and other times the school. I know personally it can be scary, especially the first time!
    I do have to say that the times I have used one the team and parents have all come out happy or on speaking terms. Mostly it has been big threats to scare the school.
    Thank you the "guide" link. It is helpful.

  2. Prudy Jo,

    Thanks for your comment.