This is an A and B conversation so please C your way out: Bias in Language at the IEP Table

Parents are sometimes both present and shutout of the IEP conversation. Being shutout is often the result of teachers and other personnel feeling like they are “experts” on your child. This expertise is reflected in the language they choose to use, and how they take charge of the IEP meeting that is about your child. This language is often so technical that many parents would not be able to understand. For example, Mehan (1987) found that psychologists took an authoritative stance at the IEP table by using technical language as they “presented” information rather than conversing about that information. Parents were shutout of these conversations because they did not speak the “language” of the psychologist. Thus, they were present for a conversation that did not include them.

 I encourage parents to ask for a definition of any word that they do not understand. Many educational professionals will admit that educational success stories for children with disabilities are few and far between. So however well-intentioned these professionals claim to be, they can’t truly be the all knowing expert that they think they are, parents are experts and equal partners in the educational future of  their children.

Mehan, H. (1987). The role of the language of role in institutional decision making. Discourse Processes, 12, 187-211.


One response to “This is an A and B conversation so please C your way out: Bias in Language at the IEP Table

  1. I think it is totally unacceptable for professionals to take over at IEP meetings and intimidate parents into assuming they are the only experts on their children. That goes against the whole idea of why we develop an IEP in the first place. I think an IEP meeting should be totally child-centered and should have as many family members and friends involved as there are professionals. I think the student herself should be at every meeting as well, making as many decisions as possible. IEP meetings at my school are celebrations that everyone looks forward to. We brag about the child’s successes, brainstorm new ideas, work through issues, cry, laugh, and dream big for the future. It’s truly a wonderful thing to see and be a part of; a team of people so dedicated and committed to the success of a child.

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