Throughout your child’s 21 years in the educational system, you will come into contact with many different professionals who will directly or indirectly impact your child’s educational success. Getting to know these people and working to foster good relationships with them can contribute to your ability to help your child get the support and services that she needs. Working cooperatively and strategically with all members of your child’s educational team is likely to be more productive than working in isolation.

If you and your child should find yourself in the situation where her educational team is not working or communicating together, or if you have other concerns about the services your child is receiving, you can take a variety of steps to help the process work more smoothly. Following are some suggestions for how to get the most out of your participation in your child’s educational team and address your concerns. (You may also want to read “When You Have Concerns.”)

Working with Your Child’s Educational Team

To promote good communication among members of the team, consider:

  • asking at the start of team meetings for each person to identify him- or herself and to clarify his or her role;
  • asking all team members to provide their contact information for you and the others;
  • sharing copies of any paperwork such as reports or assessments with all team members so each person has access to the same information; and
  • keeping copies of all documents that relate to your child so that if a question arises, you have the information available.

You may feel that when your child’s educational team comes together, the meetings are not effective as you would like them to be in addressing the needs of your child and your family. If you can find out ahead of time who will be leading the meeting, you can ask that person to assist you in making the meeting more productive. If it is not clear who will be in charge, ask at the start who will be running the meeting so that you and everyone else clearly understands who is the leader.

The leader can make the meeting run more smoothly by

  • appointing both a timekeeper and a notetaker to keep the meeting moving forward and to keep track of information that is reported and decisions that are made;
  • having the group draft an agenda with a time allocated for each topic;
  • reminding participants that only one person should speak at a time; and
  • making sure that everyone who wants to speak on a topic has a chance to do so.

Suggestions and Strategies

Some of the following suggestions may be helpful to you in making the meetings more effective.

  • Be prepared with information and questions. If others see that you have taken the time to prepare, you may find that they too come better prepared to meetings in the future.
  • Restate your understanding of what other team members tell you. By repeating back what you have heard, you are both demonstrating your interest and understanding and giving the other person an opportunity to either confirm or clarify what he or she has said.
  • Bring someone to the meeting with you who can listen and take notes on your behalf. If the meeting is stressful for you, it may be hard to take notes and focus on the discussion at the same time.
  • Consider asking someone else to attend the meeting to facilitate, for instance, an administrator such as the principal or special education director. Most individuals in these roles have experience leading meetings and can often be effective.
  • Ask that everyone be provided with a copy of any information that pertains to the discussion, such as assessment reports, samples of your child’s work, or data such as a teacher’s progress notes or completed checklists that show your child’s performance over time.
  • Ask that time be left at the end of the meeting to list the steps that need to be taken next and to determine who will take responsibility for each item. When members are clear about what will happen next and who is responsible for each task, outcomes can be more effective for all involved.
  • Set a date for the next meeting before adjourning so that progress can be monitored and lines of communication can be maintained.