1. Parents may Underestimate Their Importance to the IEP TeamDespite their importance in education decision making, parents sometimes feel overwhelmed by the IEP team process. They may believe team members perceive them as:
- Less knowledgeable about teaching;
- Less important than the educators in the meeting;
- Devalued as members, especially if they are stay-home parents;
- Obstacles to the decision-making process, especially if they disagree with the educators; or
- Unrealistic in their expectations of the school.
2. Parents Provide Critical Input that Only They Can Bring
- Parents know their children better than anyone else;
- Parents have the most complete understanding of a child's physical, social, developmental, and family history;
- Parents are the only adults in the educational process who have been and will continue to be deeply involved throughout the child's school career; and
- While they may not be educators themselves, they bring their years of experience in other professions and aspects of life to the process.
3. Parents Work More Closely With Their Children Than Other Adults CanWhile kids attend school about six hours a day, they only have a few minutes of teachers' undivided attention in a class. Parents have the opportunity to sit side-by-side with them, working through homework and other learning activities for extended periods.
Parents may be the only adults who closely observe students' work and get feedback from their children. Consequently, no one else has the perspective of a parent in a meeting. Parents should strive to attend meetings to ensure participation in decision making and to provide input on all aspects of their children's programs.
4. When Parents' Rights to Participate are Limited or TerminatedIn Rare Instances, Parents Cannot Participate in IEP Team Decisions. Parents' rights can be limited or terminated when:
- A judge terminates parent rights. This is rare, usually resulting from charges of abuse, gross negligence, or mental incompetence;
- A divorce awards educational decision making rights to the other parent;
- The child is 18. The parent must have the child's consent to be involved; or
- The adult child marries. The parent would need the child's written consent to continue to participate in the child's education.
5. The Role of the Parent on the TeamParents are vital to the IEP team process. They provide:
- Information on the child's strengths and weaknesses at home;
- Background information on the child's history and development;
- Information on any family factors that may affect the child's learning;
- Commentary on whether current strategies and instruction are helping the child learn;
- Suggestions for change and improvement based on their knowledge of the child; and
- Parents chart the future for their children with every step they take.