The IEP Teachable Moment IEP meetings fly by in a flurry of goals and objectives. Here’s how to make messages to families count in that short window. School Matters
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School Matters  |   November 01, 2015
The IEP Teachable Moment
Author Notes
  • Deborah Adamczyk Dixon, MA, CCC-SLP, is ASHA director of school services. ddixon@asha.org
    Deborah Adamczyk Dixon, MA, CCC-SLP, is ASHA director of school services. ddixon@asha.org×
Article Information
Development / School-Based Settings / Professional Issues & Training / Normal Language Processing / Language Disorders / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / School Matters
School Matters   |   November 01, 2015
The IEP Teachable Moment
The ASHA Leader, November 2015, Vol. 20, 26. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.20112015.26
The ASHA Leader, November 2015, Vol. 20, 26. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.20112015.26
By now everyone has settled into the school year and is busy organizing the caseload, assessing students, engaging in multi-tiered systems of support, writing IEP documents and meeting with parents. (Whew! I’m getting tired just thinking about all that you do!)
These tasks are very time-consuming and it feels as if they interfere with the real work you were hired to do (working directly with the student), but they provides an opportunity to communicate important information to families.
Communication during the IEP meeting is especially critical to the success of students. It is a productive way to build relationships with families. So, what’s important to talk about during these meetings?
The effect of the communication disorder on academic and social success
Families like to learn how the communication goals relate to success in the classroom, how academic goals and materials will be integrated into treatment, and which team members will work on reinforcing communication goals. Although discussion will focus on the student’s needs, parents also like to hear positive comments about their child, so find ways to share that kind of information. Explaining how communication skills provide the foundation for learning and literacy helps parents understand the importance of speech-language treatment.
Expectations for the student
Setting expectations early in the process is helpful so families understand what their child will experience. This is your chance to discuss service-delivery models and how they may change throughout the year based on the student’s progress.
It is also the time to describe what typically occurs during a session, and what the team will look for to gauge treatment progress and determine if or when services are no longer needed. This meeting is also a great time to talk about parents’ role in treatment and how their work at home can contribute to the student’s success.

So often we end meetings with parents with the basic, “Do you have any questions?” as everyone is gathering up materials. However, each meeting with a parent is an opportunity to build a collaborative relationship. Begin the discussion early in the meeting by asking, “What is important for me to know about your child?”

Factors that foster good communication
A survey ASHA conducted earlier this year found that children are engaged with technology for significant amounts of time almost from birth.
Technology use can be associated with benefits. Apps and programs may help students practice new and emerging skills and provide opportunities to explore places and events not accessible in person. They also can serve as valuable communication tools for students struggling with speech and language.
But technology is also associated with concerns. Screen time by itself isn’t necessarily problematic, but families need to think about what children are missing when they’re interacting with technology. Providing creative experiences and face-to-face conversations are the best ways to build language and relationships. Building effective social-language skills requires consistent, positive, engaging communication with people.
Childhood is a time of discovery and learning. Interacting, sharing, talking and creating memories should be a parent’s focus, with the use of technology as a very small part of that discovery and learning process. Talk to families about the benefits of reading together, discussing what they’ve read, journaling and just having fun together.
The value of parents’ input and involvement
So often we end meetings with parents with the basic, “Do you have any questions?” as everyone is gathering up materials. However, each meeting with a parent is an opportunity to build a collaborative relationship. Begin the discussion early in the meeting by asking, “What is important for me to know about your child?” “What motivates your child?” “Is there anything that I need to be aware of when working with your child?” “What is the best way for me to communicate with you?”
The IEP meeting is your chance to establish trust and credibility with parents and to help them understand that everyone on the team wants the same thing: a positive opportunity for the student to learn and grow. Early positive communication with families can lay the foundation for a successful school year for everyone.
2 Comments
November 5, 2015
Laura Young-Campbell
Good tips
Thank you for the good tips.
November 11, 2015
Sally Holbrook
Ideas for IEP meetings
Excellent ideas to have with you as you do your IEP meetings . Great to have a copy and share with the new incoming SLP's as well as a refresher for the experienced ones.
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November 2015
Volume 20, Issue 11