Prepare now for smoother virtual IEP meetings in fall

If remote IEP meetings have been shaky during this time of school closure, administrators and special ed teachers should use this time to prepare for more efficient meetings this upcoming school year.
By: | June 8, 2020
Photo by Chris Montgomery on UnsplashPhoto by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

Accidentally muting parents. Sending the wrong staff member to a virtual breakout room. Using an inappropriate background during the meeting.

These are a few of the glitches you may be experiencing as you become used to conducting virtual IEP meetings. Although you may be slowly getting the hang of it, you may want to be more proactive in practicing, especially if the district intends to continue conducting virtual IEP meetings in the fall.

“Schools have a million things to do, but, as the school year winds down, they should take the opportunity to do planned trial runs of different platforms to see what will work best for the fall,” says Jeremy J. Neff, a school attorney at Ennis Britton Co. LPA in Cincinnati, Ohio. “It’s important to take the time.”

Follow these tips to prepare for virtual IEP meetings in the fall:

• Collaborate with families. While you will want to initially conduct practice runs with colleagues, also consider practicing with families, Neff suggests. Ask parents you already have a good rapport with if they are willing to stay on the line a few minutes after their child’s virtual IEP meeting, or if they would be willing to participate in an upcoming trial videoconference, to test out some features on different platforms and see what everybody thinks.

• Practice transitions, communicating. Whoever will run the meeting as the host should practice using waiting rooms and breakout rooms to control who is able to join and communicate during the meeting. Practice having everyone on mute when he enters the meeting, then practice unmuting participants as it is their turn to contribute.

Confirm that every staff member’s technology works and bandwidth is sufficient to participate in virtual IEP meetings, Neff says. Make sure everyone knows how to mute and unmute himself when necessary and turn off and on his camera when appropriate.

• Address concerns about unexpected participants. Look at how every school-based team member is identified on a platform in the trial run, Neff says. If anyone lacks a clear identifier when she joins the meeting, and only a vague username shows up, make sure that person verbally identifies herself and knows how to change her username to better identify herself in the future. “Do not hesitate to make sure everyone identifies themselves,” he says.

“Folks need to not be embarrassed and say, ‘Hey, I see somebody new signed on. AH220, could you tell us who you are in the context of this meeting?’ The person may say, ‘I’m the new speech path who was hired after all this started,’ and you can move on.” This is important to practice in case a parent invites someone you don’t expect to a future meeting, such as a family member or an advocate, Neff says. If the parents do give the videoconference password to their attorney, you will want to discuss rescheduling so your attorney can also participate.

Cara Nissman covers autism, school psychology, and IEP team issues for Special Ed Connection, a DA sister publication.