IEP team working together.

Collaboration within an Individualized Education Program (IEP) team is vital for the success of students with special needs. When general educators, special educators, school and district leaders, and parents join forces, the impact on special education students can be truly transformative. Research consistently highlights that students with disabilities in schools with collaborative IEP teams outperform similar students in schools without a collaborative culture. Additionally, studies conducted by the U.S. Department of Education prove that students who have actively involved parents and receive special education services exhibit improved academic achievement, behavior, and motivation. To create the most high-functioning IEP teams that impact student achievement, read on for essential skills that general educators, special educators, administrators, and parents need to best serve their students.

Essential Skills for General Educators Serving Students with Special Needs

General educators play a pivotal role in inclusive classrooms, where students with special needs thrive alongside their peers. To effectively support these students, teachers need to develop a range of essential skills that promote their academic, social, and emotional growth. These same essential skills apply to homeschooling parents as well.

  1. Recognizing and identifying the presence of student needs. General education teachers should possess the ability to recognize when a student is facing challenges or experiencing barriers to their learning. This involves keen observation, active listening, and seeking support from specialized professionals, such as special education teachers or special service providers, when needed.
  2. Identify ways to improve the student’s skills (through process). Based on students’ current performance, general educators must meet students where they are and adjust instruction to fill academic gaps. An essential skill for general education teachers is the ability to adapt and modify instructional strategies to meet the individual needs of students with special needs. By employing differentiated instruction techniques, teachers can ensure that students are actively engaged in the learning process and are making growth.
  3. Identify “just-right” adaptations to support the child around their needs. General education teachers should be skilled in selecting and implementing appropriate adaptations that support students with special needs. These adaptations can include visual aids, assistive technology, modified assignments, or accommodations that address specific challenges or barriers a student may encounter and can access the curriculum effectively. For those needing guidance, our easy-to-use tool, Accomods, provides IEP teams with access to hundreds of detailed accommodations and modifications.
  4. Collect simple data that prove effectiveness. General educators must collect ongoing data to monitor student progress, evaluate the effectiveness of instructional strategies and adaptations, and make data-informed decisions. By systematically collecting data, teachers can identify areas of growth, adjust interventions, and provide targeted support to students with special needs. Check out our Accomods Adaptation Data Form to streamline data collection.

Top Skills for School or District Leaders to Lead Special Education Teams

In fostering an inclusive educational environment, the role of school and district leaders is instrumental. Leaders provide the necessary support and resources to enable IEP teams to effectively support students with special needs. By developing specific skills and implementing supportive structures, leaders can ensure that IEP teams operate cohesively and are equipped to meet the unique needs of each student.

  1. Foster a barrier-moving, inclusive mindset in your school or district. School and district leaders set the tone for ensuring an inclusive mindset among staff members. By promoting a culture that values and embraces diversity, leaders create an environment where teachers can identify when a child is experiencing a barrier that hinders their meaningful engagement in class, instruction, and assessment. This mindset shift is fundamental to creating inclusive practices system-wide.
  2. Develop effective classroom practices and acceleration programs designed to build student skills in the areas where they are weak. Leaders need to provide guidance and support to teachers in developing effective classroom practices that meet the diverse needs of students with special needs. This includes providing professional development opportunities focused on evidence-based instructional strategies, differentiated instruction, and the use of appropriate accommodations and modifications.
  3. Support teachers by empowering them with the ability to find, select, and implement adaptations that support students around the needs they demonstrate in their setting. Rather than imposing a one-size-fits-all approach, leaders should encourage individualized support based on teachers’ practices and the unique needs of their students. This allows for adaptations that are practical, effective, and aligned with the instructional approaches used in the classroom.
  4. Support commonsense data collection that occurs as naturally as possible. By promoting simple yet meaningful data collection methods, leaders enable teachers to track student progress and gather evidence of the effectiveness of adaptations and instructional strategies. This data analysis informs evidence-based decision-making and helps identify areas where additional support may be required.

Skills for Parents to Cultivate to Support a Child with Special Needs

Parents play a vital role in their child’s education and serve as key members of the IEP team. They are, after all, their child’s first teacher. By focusing on the below skills, parents can effectively advocate for their child’s needs and actively contribute to their success.

  1. Work with your child to identify specific skills that cause a barrier to their participation in class, instruction, and assessment. Parents should collaborate with their child to identify the specific skills that hinder their meaningful participation in class, instruction, and assessment. By understanding these challenges, parents can better support their child’s development and communicate these needs to the IEP team.
  2. Ensure your child’s participation in skill-building activities. This should involve practicing relevant skills at home, engaging in targeted interventions, or providing additional support outside of the school environment. By reinforcing these skills outside of the classroom, parents can help their child make exponentially more progress.
  3. Understand and support the effective use of “just-right” adaptations. Parents should become knowledgeable about the functions and benefits of adaptations. By advocating for appropriate adaptations, parents can ensure their child’s learning environment is optimized.
  4. Seek feedback from your child and share information with IEP teammates on the effectiveness of adaptations. Parents should actively seek feedback from their child regarding the effectiveness of adaptations. This input provides valuable insights into the impact of adaptations on their child’s learning experience. Sharing this feedback with the IEP team fosters collaborative decision-making and allows for continuous improvement of support strategies.

Action Driven Education Is Here to Empower Your IEP Team

The collaboration and collective skills of IEP team members are vital for supporting students with special needs on their educational journey. General education teachers, school and district leaders, and parents all play crucial roles in creating an inclusive and supportive environment where these students can thrive.

At Action Driven Education, we recognize the importance of a high-functioning IEP team and are committed to providing the necessary resources and expertise to enhance collaboration and effectiveness. With a range of services, including highly rated professional development, our on-demand Tools for Effective Inclusion online course, and our first-of-its-kind tool Accomods to enhance inclusive education, our team of experts is ready to guide and assist you in your journey to better support students with special needs. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of your students.