Parent involvement in the IEP process helps the family and the school. Read some tips to improve your involvement with SPED families
Pamela White, Ed.S.
March 19, 2024

Increasing Parent Involvement in the IEP Process

Parent involvement in the IEP process helps the family and the school. Here are some tips to improve your involvement with SPED families

The IEP process involves several people and multiple steps. Those steps can become very involved if the student has complex needs or requires extensive services. It is important that IEP teams work together to conduct IEP meetings that successfully address all needs of the student. This is why parent involvement in the IEP process is key. 

Planning and conducting a successful IEP meeting begins before the IEP team comes together at the official meeting to develop and finalize the IEP. All IEP team members have an important role in the process, so it is important that they are all actively involved from start to finish, especially parents. 

Why parent involvement in the IEP process is important

Parents are identified by IDEA as general IEP team members. As general IEP team members, and the most important people in a student’s life, parents’ involvement in the IEP process is priceless. Parents can provide valuable information and insight about their child as the team collaborates to develop the IEP. 

It is in the school’s, parents’, and child’s best interest that parents attend all IEP meetings.  Parents should be involved in order to collaborate with the other team members and voice their concerns and suggestions about important decisions like the appropriate services, accommodations, and IEP goals. 

Parents know their kids best, and can provide valuable insight to the IEP team. Their knowledge of their child is critical to developing and managing an effective IEP. Parents are able to provide information about their child’s strengths, weaknesses, and behaviors. A parent’s voice can help an IEP team to determine what is most appropriate. 

Also, while IEP team members can change if there is a change in school staffing or if a student changes schools, parents are consistent. 

Unfortunately, many IEP teams find it hard to maintain a high level of parent involvement in the IEP process. As a result, many IEPs are developed without parental input and many meetings are held without a parent in the room. This often leads to important decisions being made by the team without input from the parents.  Many schools notice more parental involvement in the IEP process when students are in lower elementary grades. Parents are often less involved when their students enter middle school, and even less involved in high school.    

Middle and high school students: By the time a student is 16 years old, they should also be part of the IEP meetings and planning. They can start earlier if able.

To increase parent involvement in the IEP process, try the following strategies:  

Strategies to increase parent involvement

Maintain ongoing communication and collaboration throughout the school year

Ongoing communication and collaboration not only keeps parents informed of their child’s progress, but it also helps to strengthen the connection between home and school. 

Here are some ways to do this:

  • Send home regular newsletters
  • Provide regular progress notes
  • Develop and share class calendars
  • Email, text or call parents occasionally, if possible
  • Some teachers have created a class website 

When parents are used to engaging in ongoing communication and collaboration, they are more likely to willingly participate in the IEP process.

Here are some communication tips for schools from an IEP veteran.

Here’s an article to share with families about communicating with the school.

Find out the parents’ preferred method of contact

In order to strive for better parent involvement, the school has to be able to communicate with parents. And not all parents prefer the same method of communication, so it’s important to know their individual preferences. Some parents may want to get a phone call  or text message for certain situations, while others may prefer a note or an email. 

Knowing a parent’s preferred method of communication ensures parents are able to receive important information, especially information about an  IEP meeting. You can send home a parent information form to learn their preferred contact method. 

Of course you have to do what’s feasible, but addressing this with parents will show them you’re trying to meet their needs.

Invite parents to the meeting well ahead of time

IDEA requires schools to notify parents of an IEP meeting early enough to ensure they are able to attend. While IDEA does not state a specific time frame, many states require that you notify the parent a minimum of 10 days before the meeting. 

Planning lots of lead time and multiple reminders can potentially increase parental involvement in the IEP process. Send home an initial notice well in advance of the meeting date, and additional reminders leading up to it. The goal is to give parents enough time to make arrangements to attend the meeting. 

See what the IDEA law says.

Schedule the IEP meeting at a time that is convenient for the parents

IDEA also requires that you schedule IEP meetings during a mutually agreed upon time. Most IEP meetings are held during the school day when most parents are working, requiring them to make arrangements with their job in order to attend.

Find out what time is best for the parent, or offer them 2-3 times to choose from. Giving parents options can make it easier for them to make arrangements with their job to attend the meeting. Remember you can plan a virtual meeting if that’s better for them.

Arrange for an interpreter, when needed

IDEA requires schools to make arrangements to include interpreters so parents understand the proceedings of the IEP meeting. 

When working with families whose native language is not English, or when a participant is Deaf or hard of hearing, talk to the family to see if they need an interpreter. In fact, because there should be ongoing communication and collaboration between school and home, the IEP team should know ahead of time if a family needs an interpreter. 

Since you may not have an interpreter available on campus, contact the appropriate district office well in advance of the IEP meeting to arrange for one.

Get parent input and give them a draft IEP before the meeting

All service providers should communicate and collaborate with parents before the IEP meeting to discuss the student’s current progress, parental concerns, IEP goals, and any other information important to the upcoming meeting. You can then develop the draft IEP based on this parental input. The draft IEP should be developed with input from all service providers. Because of the collaborative effort that should be involved, seeing the draft IEP should not be surprising to any of the team members. 

If parents are given a draft IEP, it should be labeled as a draft and the purpose of the draft should be explained to parents. It is important that parents understand a draft is not the final IEP. Be sure to send the draft IEP home early enough so parents have a chance to review all of its contents before the meeting. Some parents may even reach out with additional questions or concerns before the meeting date. 

If parents have a draft before the meeting, it gives them time to review the contents and note their questions or concerns. This also helps parents feel even more involved in the IEP process and an important member of the IEP team. 

Here’s an article you can share with parents to help them prepare for the IEP meeting.

These strategies can not only help to increase parent involvement in the IEP process, but they can also help schools meet certain guidelines required by IDEA. In addition, they can help to strengthen the home-school connection and build trust between the parent and the rest of the IEP team. 

Parents who are more involved in the IEP process are more likely to be involved in their child’s overall school experience, which leads to increased student achievement. Research shows there is a strong connection between parental involvement and a student’s academic achievement. Parents understand their child’s needs so they should be partners in education. As partners, parents and the IEP team can work together to ensure the student has opportunities for success.  

To learn more ways schools can build trust with families, read my blog Working with parents of students of disabilities: 4 ways for schools to earn families’ trust.

Enjoying our content? Sign up for our newsletter to receive useful information like this and updates from Exceptional Lives, straight to your inbox.

Or Call844-354-1212

Enjoying our content? Let's stay in touch!

  • Expert disability advocacy & parenting tips.
  • Customized to your needs.
  • No selling your information.
  • No Spam, ever.
What's your relationship to the disability community?