Facilitate IEP meetings via video conferencing software

A mom almost missed her child’s Individual Education Program meeting because she forgot and went grocery shopping. But when Valerie Hurm texted, the mom immediately logged onto Zoom, a form of video conferencing software.

“She hopped right on and attended the meeting in the grocery store parking lot,” said Hurm, special education director at Northeast Wyoming Board of Cooperative Educational Services. “It’s as close to being there in person as you can be virtually. You can see everyone and have open participation. It’s amazing.”

Districts in rural areas are increasingly using video conferencing software to bring far-flung IEP team members together for meetings. Many students attend residential programs several hours away from home. Teams can’t expect parents to travel every time there is a need for an IEP meeting. Teams also often need input from specialists in other states.

Use this chart when planning to use video conferencing software during an IEP meeting:

Component of process Action to take
Set-up

If school and district team members are meeting in the same room together, you may want to set up a laptop with a camera in a part of the room that allows everyone to be seen and heard, Hurm said. If district participants can’t attend together, each person can log on to Zoom individually and have her face show up in a square on the screen similar to those in the Brady Bunch credits. The parents on the other end can choose to see everyone on their screen or just the person who is speaking, she said. You can also have a box on the screen where parents can see IEP forms as you make changes. This is helpful if a doctor in another state wants to show his data on the screen while talking with everyone.

If parents don’t own a device with internet access, encourage them to go to a nearby school or library, Hurm said. Suggest they bring headphones to maintain confidentiality.

Training

You may want to train parents who have never used video conferencing software how to navigate the technology before the day of the meeting, Hurm said. Let them know they can log on early and mute themselves while they wait for everyone else to join the meeting. Reassure them that only those individuals who are invited to attend can gain access to the meeting, she said.

Participation

The case manager or other professional who is facilitating the meeting can elect to have everyone talk freely or moderate who speaks when, Hurm said. A participant may select a button that represents raising a hand when he wants to contribute to the discussion. There is no limit to how many people can attend a meeting.

A chat feature allows participants to type in questions for the group, Hurm said. Participants can also send private messages to each other. This may be helpful for intimidated parents to type in a question, she said. Or for a teacher to privately ask her principal if an idea is feasible.

Signature

If you record the meeting with your video conferencing software (with parent permission), ask parents at the end of the meeting if they accept a virtual signature so you have timely documentation of their agreement with their child’s IEP, Hurm said. You can fill in their name on the document and say it’s “via Zoom” or whatever program you used.

Cara Nissman covers autism, school psychology, and IEP team issues for LRP Publications. 

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