Last night I walked into my bedroom and saw a spider. I tried to grab a tissue to capture the spider however by the time I grabbed the tissue, the spider was gone. I moved an object on the floor and saw two spiders rush toward a seam in the baseboard. I’m not afraid of spiders but I didn’t have time to deal with this so I asked my husband to take care of them.
I clearly told him where I had seen the spiders. They were in the northwest corner of our bedroom. I went to take care of our dog as he went in to take care of the spiders. He tells me he doesn’t see them. I say they must have moved because they were there a minute ago. A conversation ensued in which I discovered that he was looking at the northwest ceiling corner. I needed him to look at the northwest floor corner.
Now, how does this spider story relate to fixing the noncompliance of an IEP?
While I knew in my head what I meant, I didn’t give him all the details to truly understand the location. I was seeing what I meant, but not telling him exactly so he couldn't carry out the task properly.
This often happens at an IEP meeting and then in turn gets written into an IEP document. We have discussions at the table and use words that everyone understands, but many times our perception of those words is different. We each may have a different understanding of how something will be carried out, where it will be carried out, by whom, and when. None of the perceptions are wrong but can cause great confusion.
While my spider incident was an easy fix since my husband and I could have a conversation and quickly clarify exactly what I meant, that isn’t the case with an IEP. The parent is at home thinking about one way a goal, service, modification, or accommodation is happening at school. While it is being carried out differently at school. The teachers and school staff aren’t intentionally doing something different than what is written in the IEP or what the parent thinks is supposed to be happening. They just perceived it differently. The school isn’t necessarily non-compliant.
Can this be fixed? Absolutely! How?
Have open, non-defensive, non-confrontational conversations to clarify the goals, accommodations, modifications, and services. When everyone on the team shares their perspectives and a particular perspective is decided upon, it builds trust and community among the members.
This clarity provides for everyone at the IEP meeting table to truly be an equal member. These clarifying conversations would be best at the meeting itself and then clearly written out so all parties understand each other as closely as possible. If the information is too much to write in a specific area, then add it to the Additional Notes section. When an IEP has already been written, these clarifications can still occur between parents and teachers. In that situation, an addendum to the IEP should be written and given to all parties involved in the initial writing of the IEP. However, calling another meeting for full clarity is acceptable, and then writing a whole new IEP.
Shelley Kenow is not a lawyer and does not provide legal advice. This is her opinion based on years of experience and training in special education. To learn more about Shelley Kenow and her coaching business visit www.shelleykenow.com,