2016 TASH Conference has ended
Each year, the TASH Conference strengthens the disability field by connecting attendees to innovative information and resources, facilitating connections between stakeholders within the disability movement, and helping attendees reignite their passion for an inclusive world. This year’s conference theme, “Gateway to Equity,” explores inclusive communities, schools, and workplaces that support people with disabilities, including those with complex support needs, in living a fair, just, and balanced life. Return to TASH website.
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Thursday, December 1 • 10:20am - 11:10am
Enhancing the IEP Meeting Process: The Good, The Bad, and The Suggestions

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Decades of research identify the need to improve the IEP meeting process for families and students with disabilities. The purpose of this panel will be to present key research-based practices aimed to enhance the IEP meeting process. Specifically, we will present the following promising practices: (a) a tiered IEP meeting model for family and student support that embeds student facilitated practice, parent support, shared-decision making, and alternative dispute resolution practices; (b) practices for supporting culturally and linguistically diverse families; (c) the importance and use of advocates; and (d) quality of life planning through the lifespan. In keeping with the “Gateway to Equity” TASH theme, attendees will walk away with a collective understanding about the importance and relevance of connecting key stakeholders to innovative practices designed to enhance the IEP meeting process in an effort to renew the field of special education for the ultimate benefit of students with disabilities.


 As a result of this session, the participants will:
1. Summarize the past four decades of research about parent and student experiences with the Individualized Education Program Meeting  
2. Integrate a continuum of parent and student friendly conflict prevention and resolution practices into their pre-existing knowledge about the Individualized Education Program Meeting process.
3. Describe the characteristics of effective special education advocate training and practice. 4. Identify culturally and linguistically diverse practices aimed to support parents and students throughout the Individualized Education Program Meeting.
5. Describe Individualized Education Program planning practices aimed to support individuals through the lifespan (e.g., employment, education, and life skills).   

Research Background:

The purpose of this panel is to present parent and student friendly strategies used to enhance the IEP meeting process. 

Importance: Research indicates most IEP meetings lack student involvement, parent input, culturally and linguistically supportive practices, individualization, and effective transition-focused planning. Because the IEP is an evolving process aimed to prepare students for successful futures, there is a noted need to enhance this practice for the field. 

Translating this content into improved outcomes: Through this presentation, the  "what" and "how" of the IEP document and meeting are aligned and defined to empower stakeholders to actively participate using a collaborative approach. This collaborative framework is encouraged throughout research, supported through the spirit of IDEA, and can potentially ameliorate existing problems with the IEP meeting.  

Methodology: This panel will present findings from four different research studies, including (a) a tiered IEP meeting model; (b) practices for supporting culturally and linguistically diverse families; (c) the importance and use of advocates; and (d) quality of life planning through the lifespan.   For the purposes of clarity, the panel chair will lead in the discussion based on a qualitative phenomenology research study, specifically qualitative interviews to explore parents, parent advocates, educators, administrators, and facilitators’ experiences with IEP and Facilitated IEP (FIEP) meetings. Until this study, FIEP meetings were recognized for dispute resolution practice and defined as a process using a trained impartial facilitator to attend and facilitate an IEP meeting to ensure all team members are equal contributors and to assist the team with active problem solving, interacting respectfully during disagreements, and maintaining focus. While the FIEP meeting is recognized as a dispute resolution option, very limited research about the model exists.   Using purposeful sampling techniques, we interviewed 32 parents, parent advocates, educators, administrators, and facilitators representing 13 different states across the US who had experience with the IEP and FIEP meetings.   Interviews were one hour long, audiotaped, and took place over the telephone. Interviews followed a protocol; however, they were open-ended with follow-up questions asked as needed. Each audiotaped interview was transcribed verbatim and analyzed using a sequential three-step qualitative analysis process using open, axial, and selective coding procedures. This process involved reading through the transcripts line-by-line and applying an open code to the data. The second stage of data analysis, axial coding, used the established open codes and classified them according to conceptual categories identified across the interviews. The last stage, selective coding, involved reviewing the code categories and identifying which categories were prominent in more than half of the transcripts. These categories were also collapsed into larger themes. We then selected quotes to illustrate the themes.   Participant experiences with FIEP meetings were overwhelmingly positive. One noteworthy finding was that the participants’ negative experiences with non-facilitated IEP meetings directly contrasted with their positive experiences with FIEP meetings, with participants sharing that FIEP meeting practice can be a valuable tool used to enhance IEP meetings in general. In fact, many educators shared that their experiences and training on FIEP meeting practice positively affected their non-facilitated FIEP meetings, even without an external facilitator involved.   Additionally, two major defining categories specific to an emerging FIEP model surfaced. First, the model encompasses collaborative components for conflict prevention and dispute resolution (i.e., facilitator skills, focus on the student, consensus building). Second, the model utilizes procedural practices (i.e., pre-meeting, agenda, norms/ground rules, visually charting, and a parking lot) that were described as enhancing the organization and outcome of the IEP meeting practice itself.   The participants’ positive validation of FIEP meetings indicated this model might be a valuable process that can be used to both prevent and resolve conflict between parents and educators. Data resulted in an emerging and promising IEP meeting model for researcher and practitioner use.  

avatar for Meghan Burke

Meghan Burke

Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
avatar for Grace Francis

Grace Francis

Assistant Professor, Special Education, George Mason University

Tracy Gershwin Mueller

Tracy Gershwin Mueller, Ph.D., BCBA-DProfessor, MA Intervention Specialist CoordinatorCollege of Education and Behavioral SciencesSchool of Special Education

Thursday December 1, 2016 10:20am - 11:10am CST
Grand F&E 1820 Market Street, St. Louis, MO 63103