The IDEA provides for a team meeting in which parents and educators will bring together their best ideas and thinking to design an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for a child receiving services. The IEP team includes parents, educators, and service providers who may view the child through different lenses and may disagree about the educational services and supports needed. Teams may find it beneficial to be guided through the IEP development process by an individual with meeting management and facilitation skills.
All meetings benefit from skilled and capable facilitators who can assist a team in crafting agreements that lead to educational programs with beneficial outcomes for students with disabilities. When IEP teams reach an impasse or meetings are expected to be contentious, an independent, trained facilitator may help guide the process. While considerable variability exists related to this practice and in those who serve as facilitators, State Education Agencies (SEAs) and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) are increasingly turning to this approach.
A facilitator helps keep members of a team focused on the development of the IEP while addressing conflicts and disagreements that may have occurred before or emerge during the meeting. Such assistance, coming from an individual who is not a member of the IEP team, can encourage cooperation among team members and help the IEP development process or meeting be more successful.
Facilitation is a collaborative process that emphasizes shared responsibility for the development of the most appropriate IEP for the student. A facilitation program may result in:
- A decrease in more formal procedures
- More durable IEPs
- Improved relationships between schools and families
- Improved communication skills
- Resolutions to disputes that are more mutually satisfying to both families and schools
- Greater capacity of teams as they learn from facilitators how to conduct meetings successfully