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Parent Special Education Information

PACER is the Minnesota Parent Training and Information Center, funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs.

Tips and Tools for Talking with School Staff

This webinar recording provides parents of special education students practical tips and interactive problem-solving experiences to build the skills necessary to communicate effectively with school staff and resolve differences. After watching the webinar, please complete a related survey.

Ideas to Improve Parent-to-Professional Communication with School Staff

PACER’s parent advocates often hear from parents when they encounter certain statements or situations at school meetings that they find uncomfortable or uncertain. These tips are suggestions and techniques from PACER advocates to help parents address some of those concerns, as well as improve communication with school staff.

Statement or Situation You May Want to Ask
school staff presents a new idea that you may be interested in

“What will it take to make that happen?”

a school IEP team member expresses something that you think may be an opinion

“Is that an opinion or do you have data I can see to support it?”

you are uncertain about something in your child’s school day

“What does this look like in Johnnie’s day?”

a school IEP team member says, “Your son refuses to ___,”

“Is that something he can’t or doesn’t know how to do rather than refuses to do?”

a school staff member says, “We don’t have the money to do that,”

“I understand that the school district has financial concerns. However, we are here to talk about what my child needs for a free, appropriate public education.”

Or you might say, “Please put that in writing for me.”

a school staff member says — “We don’t know (the answer to a particular question, concern, problem, or issue)” — without offering a way to find the answer

“Who can we invite to the meeting to help find the answer?”

you are trying something new

“How will we know that it is working?" and “How will data on success be collected?

you want input from a specific IEP team member

“What is your professional opinion?”

an important agreement, decision, or promise is made

ask to have it put into writing

you are bringing a problem to the IEP team that needs solving

try to clearly present the problem and then brainstorm solutions with the team

General Tips:

  • Ask a question once and then listen for the answer.
  • Keep the main thing the main thing. Too many details may only distract from your priorities.
  • When action is required, always ask who will be responsible for seeing that it is done.
  • Thank the members of the IEP team or specific teachers whenever possible and appropriate.
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