IEPs & 504 Plans

Engaging Latinx Parents: An IEP Meeting Checklist for Educators

Language and cultural barriers can prevent some caregivers from understanding and participating in the IEP process. Follow this advice to drive positive outcomes.

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Following a child’s ADHD diagnosis, many families struggle to understand the condition, accept its associated learning differences, and move forward with treatment and accommodations. Now imagine trying to fathom all of this in a language that you don’t speak or comprehend easily.

This is the plight of many immigrant families in today’s U.S. school system. Because of language barriers, many caregivers fail to connect with educators and often keep quiet at their child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings, when input about supports and services is so important. Add to the mix cultural differences and the situation gets worse. In many Latin American countries, a child’s challenges are not attributed to ADHD — the diagnosis isn’t generally accepted — but rather to a lack of clear rules or an absence of punishment. Medication is only used only as a last resort.

Given these challenges, we’ve created a checklist to help educators lead a successful IEP meeting with immigrant Latinx caregivers of students with learning differences. Something to keep in mind: Stigma is pervasive in Spanish-speaking countries. When caregivers express resistance, it is often due to a lack of information or because they feel shame or guilt.

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Before the IEP Meeting

  • Hold an initial, brief parent-teacher conference to prepare the groundwork for the IEP meeting.
  • Emphasize to the caregivers that you want to work as a team to help their child succeed, and that you value their input.
  • Explain the purpose of an IEP, how the meeting will be structured, and who will participate.
  • Inform caregivers of their rights (i.e., a translator, support person) and make sure to allow extra time for interpretation when scheduling the IEP meeting.
  • Provide a draft of the IEP in Spanish.

During the IEP Meeting

  • Invite parents to share information about their child and the strategies that have worked for them.
  • Discuss ways in which the family can help from home, considering their routines, time limitations, and language barriers between generations.
  • Explain test results and next steps.
  • Provide the contact information of a person that they can call or email with questions.

After the IEP Meeting

Now that you’ve spent time with the family, follow up to keep the connection going and the family engaged. When caregivers and teachers work together, students feel understood, supported, and empowered.

IEP Meetings: Next Steps

David Lucas “Luke” Smith, M.D., is the executive director and medical director at El Futuro, a nonprofit outpatient mental health clinic in North Carolina. He is board-certified in adult, child, and adolescent psychiatry.  

Tamara Schlez is an ADHD coach and engagement specialist at El Futuro.  

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