There are many reasons IEP’s can be stressful. Here is a list of a few related to the emotional ramifications of the process on parents. Please feel free to respond and add your own. The implication here is not that school administrators and teaching staff ever intend to make IEP’s an adversarial process. The reason they become adversarial is that our current educational system creates professions that are artificially separated by disciplinary training. This can actually create a perfect storm for increasing parent stress.
1) Professionals come from their own isolated silos of discipline and training. For example, educators and school administrators do not generally have training in mental health, and can easily miss signals of emotional distress faced by parents, especially during the IEP process.
2) How information is delivered to parents (the process) is as important as what is delivered (the content). A back and forth dialogue of respect between parents and professionals will yield the most well rounded view of the child’s overall levels of functioning.
3) Too often, children’s challenges are not presented in the larger context of their strengths and potential capacities for growth.
4) Professionals underestimate the emotional pain parents experience when they believe their child’s academic goals are too low or when pleas for additional support for their child are denied.
A few programs exist to address this critical problem. Both have excellent online training for parents and professionals, bridging the gaps and creating better communication for all sides involved.