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Why do we hold Family Team Meetings?

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

As a loving guardian, your heart yearns to see your child thrive, and sometimes the journey can be overwhelming.

If you're reading this, chances are you might be looking into Executive Function coaching for your child, expecting it to be the magic wand that clears away the challenges.

But let me assure you, as someone deeply vested in the well-being of your child, there is something even more potent – a Family Team Meeting (FTM).

I understand the skepticism – why should a meeting make a difference?

After all, the coach your hired is the expert. You've been to plenty of IEP meetings in the past, and perhaps, they've been more focused on ritual and paperwork, rather than hearing your input.

But here is the truth -- a Family Team Meeting is not just 'another meeting'. It’s a confluence of commitment and collaboration from everyone who holds a piece of your child’s world.

Your child is an intricate puzzle, and this gathering of minds and hearts, which includes you, can unlock the real change.

It’s not just about fixing what’s 'wrong', it’s about nurturing what’s right and setting a path for growth.

This blog will walk you through what an FTM entails and how it taps into the proven power of collective efficacy - one of the highest-ranking factors for student achievement according to renowned education researcher John Hattie.

You are an irreplaceable part of this collective. With you on board, the chances of your child’s progress skyrocket.

As you read on, you'll learn the simple but impactful agenda of an FTM and how it is structured to bring the best for your child.

Yes, the process may have its challenges. Emotional moments, scheduling hiccups, or disengagement may crop up, but this guide also arms you with effective solutions for these.

So, let’s embark on this journey with an open heart and a determined spirit.

Because, dear parent, your participation could be the very catalyst that transforms the landscape of your child’s future.

What is a Family Team Meeting?

A Family Team Meeting (FTM) is a structured gathering that brings together family members, as well as other key stakeholders and support persons involved in a child’s or family's well-being, to collaborate on decision-making, planning, and problem-solving.

The focus of an FTM can vary depending on the circumstances and may address issues such as a child’s educational needs, health, behavioral issues, or family challenges.

What does research tell us about Family Team Meetings?

According to John Hattie's research, collective teacher efficacy is one of the top factors for increasing student achievement.

With an effect size of 1.57, it ranks extremely high among various influences on educational outcomes. (Hattie, J. (2015). What works best in education: The politics of collaborative expertise. Pearson).

image of John Hattie's research highlighting the importance of collective teacher efficacy
Collective teacher efficacy: one of the greatest impactors on student achievement

By bringing teachers together with families and other stakeholders, and harnessing their shared belief in their collective ability to make a positive impact, FTMs benefit from one of the most powerful factors in education.

This collaborative approach, drawing on the principles of collective teacher efficacy, can be a driving force in supporting and enhancing a child’s educational achievements and overall development.

Who should join for an FTM?

For an effective FTM, it's essential to include the parents or guardians, members of the coaching team, and any other individuals who are directly involved in serving the student on a week-to-week basis.

Must be there:

  • Parents

  • Student

  • Executive Function coach

It would be great to invite:

  • Therapist

  • School case manager

  • Advocate

  • Other team supports

This could encompass tutors, therapists, or special education professionals who are actively engaged with the student.

It's important for parents to be mindful of the potential costs associated with including certain professionals in the meeting, especially if they are paying out of pocket for services. Balancing the value of the input from professionals with the financial considerations is key in assembling a focused and productive FTM group.

What is the agenda of an FTM?

What's Going Well?

  • Ask each participant to share something positive or a success, no matter how small.

  • This sets a positive tone and acknowledges efforts and progress.

What Needs to Change?

  • Facilitate a discussion where participants can express concerns or areas that need improvement.

  • Focus on constructive feedback and encourage solutions-focused thinking.

Who Does What by When?

  • Work together to develop action steps for making the necessary changes.

  • Assign specific responsibilities to each participant and set clear deadlines.

  • Ensure that the responsibilities and deadlines are realistic and agreed upon by all.

What challenges may come up throughout the FTM process?

Family Team Meetings (FTMs) can encounter various challenges, including emotional outbursts, disengagement, and scheduling difficulties. Here’s how to address some common challenges:

1. Parent Venting During "What's Going Well" Segment


A parent may start venting or focusing on negatives during the time designated for sharing positive developments.


The facilitator can gently interrupt and remind the parent of the purpose of this segment. Acknowledge the parent’s concerns and assure them that there will be a time to discuss challenges later in the meeting.

For example, the facilitator could say, "I understand that you have concerns, and it's important that we hear them. Right now, we're focusing on positive developments. We will address concerns in the next segment."

2. Parent Becoming Frustrated and Yelling:


A parent may become emotionally overwhelmed and start yelling or showing frustration.


The facilitator should remain calm and employ de-escalation techniques. It might be helpful to take a short break to allow the parent to calm down. After the break, acknowledge the parent’s emotions and encourage them to express their concerns in a constructive manner. Set clear expectations for respectful communication.

3. Parent Not Engaging or Making Scheduling Difficult


A parent may be unresponsive, reluctant to engage, or consistently making scheduling difficult.


For scheduling, offer flexibility and multiple options for meeting times. If a parent is disengaged during the meeting, try to understand the root cause. It might be due to feeling overwhelmed, unheard, or unsure of how to contribute.

The facilitator can engage the parent by asking open-ended questions and encouraging their input. Also, providing a welcoming and non-judgmental atmosphere can help in increasing engagement.


FTMs can be emotionally charged, and parents might be dealing with various stressors. Patience, empathy, and clear communication are key in navigating these challenges. Additionally, having a skilled facilitator who can guide the meeting and manage dynamics is crucial for the effectiveness of FTMs.

What's next?

As you embrace the profound impact Family Team Meetings can have, it's essential to actively participate in this transformative process.

Start by reaching out to your child's school or involved stakeholders to set up an FTM. Stay engaged, and bring your insights, while remaining open to collaboration and feedback. It's through collective effort that we can accomplish the most.

Keep yourself informed about the goals and action plans developed in the FTM and offer your unwavering support at home. Don't forget to celebrate even the smallest milestones; your encouragement is your child’s driving force.

Moreover, to continually arm yourself with the knowledge and strategies needed in this wonderful journey, subscribe to our newsletter. You’ll receive invaluable tips and insights that will empower you in supporting your child’s growth. You are an indispensable champion in your child’s story, and with your commitment, the horizon is boundless.

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About the author

Sean G. McCormick is the founder of Executive Function Specialists, an online coaching business that guides middle, high school, and college students in overcoming procrastination, disorganization and anxiety by teaching time management, prioritization and communication skills so they feel motivated, prepared, and empowered.

He also founded the Executive Function Coaching Academy which trains special education teachers, school psychologists and other professionals to support students with ADHD and executive function challenges.

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EFS started with one teacher deciding that kids with ADHD needed better access to quality executive function coaching services. Since then, we have grown to a team of specialists working both private students and public schools to enhance executive function skills for all students. 

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