Reducing Resistance in IEP Meetings with Storytelling

Fall is fast approaching, and it's a time when many parents choose to schedule their IEP meetings. It's critical to go into the meeting prepared mentally. Several days or weeks before the meeting, start thinking about what you are going to present to the team and how you are going to say it. How you say it matters tremendously!

One tip that has been helpful for me at my daughter's IEP meetings is using storytelling to communicate my ideas. When I want to propose new goals or changes in services, rather than just coming out and asking for what I want, I tell her story.

Storytelling is an art that increases engagement. It's a key ingredient in communications to teach and to influence. It's a way of reeling people in. We are taught to use storytelling when trying to get buy-in on ideas in the workplace. Preachers use it. Why not in an IEP meeting where the stakes are high?

Storytelling to Persuade

I came across something to support this idea in the FETA (From Emotions to Advocacy) textbook, "Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy." In Chapter 6, page 50:

"The Five Golden Rules for Negotiators. Rule #3 is storytelling." "Storytelling reduces resistance. Make requests by telling the child's story."

I had never realized that I was using a storytelling approach in my IEP meetings. I just felt that telling my daughter's story made it easier for the IEP team to identify with what my daughter was going through. This was highly effective.

The Makings of a Persuasive Story

Does anyone remember what Aristotle coined as logos, ethos, and pathos? These are the three appeals that are essential in persuasion.
  1. Logos is providing a logical argument. Be sure to use logic that will speak to the other team members in the room.
  2. Ethos is credibility and authority. As a parent or caregiver, you are an expert! But don't forget that the others in the room consider themselves to be educational experts.
  3. Pathos is an appeal to emotion. It makes what you're saying personal. Speak from the heart. Don't blame. If you do, the team will respond defensively.
Using all three appeals draws together the factual information with the emotional aspects.

Another approach is using the head (logic), hands (practicality), and heart (emotion).

This is essentially the same school of thought just a different twist.


Happy storytelling!


Six Minutes Speaking and Presentation Skills, Ethos, Pathos, Logos, 3 Pillars of Public Speaking: http://sixminutes.dlugan.com/ethos-pathos-logos/

Creating Minds:  http://creatingminds.org/tools/head_heart_hands.htm

Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, 2nd Edition, by Pam Wright & Pete Wright

Wrightslaw: Tactics and Strategies, Using Storytelling to Persuade