The idea of presenting at an IEP meeting can be intimidating – and even overwhelming. However, if you take time to prepare in advance and set up general procedures you can follow at each meeting, you’ll be a pro in no time. Whether you’re just embarking on your career as a school-based occupational therapist or you are an experienced school OT who wants to polish your presentation skills, these tips are for you! These suggestions will get you started:
- 1. Keep your audience top of mind. During the IEP meeting, you’ll be communicating with parents, the student (if present), general education teachers, special education teachers, other therapists and even advocates or attorneys. Be sensitive to and aware of each party’s culture, perspective and purpose for attending the meeting.
- 2. Clarify jargon. OTs are used to speaking their own language. Those at the meeting might not understand OT terms like praxis, kinesthesia, proprioception or habituation. Explain any complicated terms and spell out all acronyms like OI (orthopedic impairment), ADL (activities of daily living, RTI (response to intervention), etc. When explaining measurement and data, explain what the measurements actually mean in relation to the student’s present levels and progress.
- 3. Use visuals. It may be hard for participants to understand specific OT tasks, tools, therapies or interventions if you use words to describe them. Instead, use videos or images to help attendees visualize concepts like cross-over movements, fine-motor skill interventions, social skills practice or pencil grips.
- 4. Cover all pertinent information. Tailor your presentation for the meeting and the student’s plan. Consider the student’s medical, social, educational, vocational and personal goals. Determine what else to cover: abilities and deficits, evaluation methods and results, OT interventions, support services, transition or discharge plans, etc.
- 5. Keep meticulous records. Ensure you’re in compliance with all of your data. Be sure to communicate information on time. Be thorough in your documentation.
- 6. Be a fine-motor-skills champion. OT isn’t just about keyboarding. Since computers are now ubiquitous at all grade levels in most schools, keyboarding has become a dominant topic in many IEP meetings. It can be challenging for OTs to convey the importance of pencil grip and scissor skills. It’s a critical part of overall fine motor skill development that often gets overlooked!
- 7. Have a plan for difficult meetings. Always be considerate, respectful, transparent and direct. However, if a meeting becomes contentious during your presentation, do not be afraid to request a quick break! Take a moment to refocus, listen actively, empathize with the parent, and get into the solution.
When you’ve got a solid plan in place, you’ll be able to deliver successful, valuable OT presentations. While IEP meetings can get complex at times, they’re a critical part of helping you and the rest of the team work toward a common goal – helping each student thrive – in school and beyond.
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