By Amanda Morin
Emotions can run high at IEP meetings. But it’s important to focus on the end goal: helping your child. Here are 10 stay-calm phrases you can use to redirect conversation and defuse tense situations.
IEP meetings can get heated when there is disagreement about how to interpret laws or test results. You can defuse that by taking a step back and giving the school a chance to explain its position. If you’re certain you’re correct, don’t worry—you’ll get a chance to say so.
Sample response: “I may be misunderstanding. Can you show me a detailed interpretation of that law? Here’s the information I have on hand that speaks to this issue.”
If someone tries to shut conversation by telling you she’s not sure where your information is coming from, that’s easy enough to defuse. Simply show her.
Sample response: “I can show you where I’ve highlighted that information in the report and progress notes. Can we make each team member a copy?”
It can be frustrating (to say the least) to hear someone at your child’s school tell you it doesn’t provide a certain service or doesn’t have the staff to implement it. But the law is on your side, so make the conversation about collaboration.
Sample response: “How can we work together to make this happen? The law says services must meet my child’s unique needs, and this is the recommended service.”
Someone from the school might say, “This is how we’ve always done something.” But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a policy. Defuse any arguments about it by asking to see in writing that this is how they handle the situation.
Sample response: “I understand this is how you do things. May I see a copy of the written policy that outlines this procedure?”
Federal law says that the IEP team needs to include someone who is able to make decisions about staff and funding. But in practice you may hear, “I’m not in a position to make that decision.” Instead of getting upset, get practical.
Sample response: “Is it Mr. Smith who has that authority? Let’s call him and ask him to join us.”
It may surprise you how this simple phrase can defuse tense situations. Keep in mind it doesn’t mean the same thing as “I agree.” It just means you’re hearing what’s been said.
Sample response: “I understand you only have 15 minutes left for this meeting. While we’re all here, why don’t we set up another time to continue this conversation.”
Parents are equal members of the IEP team. If you feel like your concerns aren’t being heard, take a breath and then calmly speak up. Be specific about what you know about and see in your child.
Sample response: “I’ve noticed that at the end of the day, Olivia isn’t able to focus on her homework without getting frustrated. I’d like to talk about how to make that easier for her.”
Conversation about accommodations, behavior plans or instructional strategies can easily turn to talk about theories or ideas. You can redirect by asking about how things will actually work.
Sample response: “I like the idea of checking in every 15 minutes to see if Olivia is on task. How will that happen in the classroom? Will the teacher be able to manage that?”
When you hear, “We don’t agree with that recommendation,” you may feel the need to push to defend your position. Instead, keep the dialogue going.
Sample response: “OK, you don’t think that will work for Olivia. What alternatives do you suggest to address that identified need?”
Sometimes it can feel like an IEP meeting is a long conversation about what’s going wrong. It doesn’t have to be. In fact, focusing on what’s going well can help you discover ways to address other issues.
Sample response: “Let’s talk about what’s working. Maybe some of those strengths and strategies can help us find ways to address the trouble spots.”
Preparation is the key to being an effective, confident advocate at your child’s IEP meetings. Here are five important things to do before an IEP meeting.
Federal law defines what an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is, but the details can be tricky. Myths and false assumptions about IEPs abound. Here are five common misconceptions—and the facts about each.
Amanda Morin is a parent advocate, a former teacher and the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.
The IEP Meeting: An Overview
Standards-Based IEPs: What You Need to Know
Download: IEP Binder Checklist
Will the School Provide a Translator at an IEP Meeting If I Need One?
All About Overseeing Your Child’s IEP
Checklist: What to Bring to the IEP Meeting
There was an error posting your reply.
Thanks for being a part of the Understood Community. Your comment will appear shortly, once it’s been reviewed.
*Please confirm you are not a robot.
Guilt? Frustration? Confusion? Watch as these parents share their experiences.
Quickly scan the differences to find out which is best for your child.
Learn why dyslexia didn’t stand in the way of her winning an Oscar.
Learn how various learning and attention issues can make it hard to do math in your head.
Sign up for weekly emails with helpful resources for you and your family.
This email is already subscribed to Understood newsletters. If you haven't been receiving anything, add email@example.com to your safe-senders list.
Name must have no more than 50 characters. Email address must be valid. Email message must have no more than 140 characters and cannot include the < > / \ special characters. Please fill out all fields and complete the reCAPTCHA to send a message.
*Please confirm you are not a robot.
Don’t worry—we saved what you wrote.
Sign up to get personalized recommendations and connect with parents and experts in our community.
Only members can view and participate in conversations.
Child’s nickname is private and only you can see it.