An Individual Education Plan (IEP) Is Like a Fast Moving Game

Parents whose children have an IEP understand the dilemma of taking sides. Many parents are adamant about what they want for their child, yet fail to discuss the needs and wants of their opponent, albeit, the teachers.

Of course not…it wouldn’t be a game then, right? Sports teams don’t care one bit what the other team needs because both teams are there to win.

Just like any sports team, both parents and teachers have a plan for success.

Offense vs. Defense

Are you going into the IEP meeting with an idea that you will stick to–no budging? Or are  you going in with your child’s best educational program in mind?

There is a difference. While both sides should be working towards a common goal, it doesn’t always work out that way.

Parents know their child best and have a pretty good idea about what they think will work. The challenge arises when then teacher also thinks she knows best. Most times, their plan will differ and that’s where we parents need to manipulate the rules a bit.


I like to go into the meeting with certain end goals in mind. For example, I pick the three most important items to use as a starting point. Any more than three tends to get uncomfortable; like overeating at the buffet. In preparation for the IEP meeting, I make a list of the three items I intend to introduce.

  • The first item I choose in the one which I absolutely feel my child cannot do without. Not leaving the meeting without this accommodation or goal. Period!
  • Second, I am ready to ask for another accommodation or modification that is important and much needed, but could be offered differently. For instance, I might want my child to have a laptop, but if not possible, perhaps the school would accommodate using the classroom computer. If this item is not received in a positive way, I am prepared to discuss how we can work as a team to manage the challenges which warrant this accommodation in the first place.
  • My third item would be an accommodation that would be nice to have, but not imperative it be received. I can give it up, or let it go, if I need to.

The importance of the third “letting go” strategy scores a point in our favor. By relinquishing one accommodation, my child was able to gain the most important one. The opponent had some input and decision-making as well. This creates a “win-win” situation for both parties. It also sends the message that I am reasonable and willing to work together. Being responsive to their ideas and educational platforms keeps everyone happy.

It’s all a game

While this is not the way it should be, parents need to delve deep into their “play-book” to find solutions for their child’s optimum learning experience.

Conversely, though, the teachers will also have their own dialogue and plan. Don’t be surprised if they try to propose a better design to teach your child.

Successful students have successful parents who make rational, informed, and conscious decisions.


Enjoying our special education student and advocating for a successful year is a game that must be played. Like a fine game of chess, having a long-term strategy is key.

It’s your move!



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