What Should I Take to the IEP Meeting?

It’s a question I get every year…

Parents, wanting  to set the stage for a positive, productive planning session, will ask, “Should I take cookies to the IEP* meeting?”

My answer? “Sure…if you feel like baking or stopping by the market to get a treat for the team…”

And then I tell them some things they’ll really need…
Parent_Teacher_Conference

Take a picture of your child. Some of the staff  may not have met your son or daughter…and even if they have, it’s easier to discuss goals and objectives when we remember that we’re talking, not about policies, but about a person.

Take information from your child’s doctor or therapist. Many parents tell me that they don’t want the school to know their child is getting therapy to address behavior concerns or taking medicine for a mental health issue. In most cases, though, the teachers can better understand and help when they have ALL the information. It feels risky, but sharing this information can result in better continuity of care for your child.

Take a calendar. Planning often requires follow-up. Take your calendar with you to schedule future meetings or remind yourself to follow through on anything the school has asked of you.

Take your dreams. At the beginning of the meeting, the team will begin to discuss future plans for your child.  Share your hopes…and be willing to accept feedback on realistic ways to help your child achieve these long-range goals.

Take your fears. When a child needs special education services, many parents experience tremendous anxiety, as new questions bubble to the surface…”Will my child be able to read? Will he have any friends? Will she be able to get a job someday?” Sharing those fears with the school team can make you feel vulnerable, but it helps  them understand some of your reasons for wanting certain services.

Take your tears. So many parents tell me, “I read a bunch of articles, so I know that I DEFINITELY shouldn’t cry…I’m afraid I’ll break down, though…” I’m not sure why this has become standard advice; in my estimation, it lacks wisdom. No one likes to cry at a meeting, (and some folks just aren’t criers. That’s okay!) If you do get teary, know this:  Those tears  help you release and communicate grief, anger, and sorrow. Let them flow. They’re born of a great love for your child.

Take a friend. Or your spouse, or an advocate. It’s hard to listen to everything when you’re nervous.  Having someone accompany you allows you to process what happened after the meeting is over. (Be sure to tell the school ahead of time if you’re inviting a guest…it’s just good manners.)

Take your front teeth. You might need them to bite your tongue, if someone says something inaccurate or insensitive. Also take phrases like, “Can you help me understand why you would say that?” or “Would you care to put that in writing so that I can reflect on that later?” Those phrases can help to refocus the meeting. (And, as a back-up, take your humility…because you might say something you wish you hadn’t, too.)

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Take your heart and head. Your love for and knowledge of your child is a tremendous asset. Don’t underestimate your ability to convey how your child’s unique strengths can be valued.

Take your faith. As you plan, remember that your child was created for a purpose by a King whose love will never, ever fail.

So, there you have it…Those are the things you’ll need for your meeting.
They’ll go great with the cookies.

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*Individualized Education Plan
Photo credits: thechristianacademy.org;engagenkcschools.com

 

 

 

 

Can They Come In After They Come Out?

locked-door

I picked up the water pitcher and began refilling glasses in our candlelit dining room. Our guests were laughing and enjoying each other’s company as they sipped coffee and savored the last bites of dessert. As I rounded the table, the conversation shifted toward spiritual things, and we chatted about changes in the local church.

“Well, one thing I CAN’T understand,” said Grant (not his real name). “There’s that one church on the west side of town. They’re just welcoming gay people to come on in and sit with them in the pews! Why would a church welcome THEM?”

I froze. My husband’s dark eyes met  mine, wordlessly providing reassurance and understanding. As I slowly reached for Grant’s water glass, Tom gently, deftly turned the conversation toward a broader discussion.

After our guests departed, Tom and I cleared the remains of the meal and began washing dishes. He put his tray down and wrapped his arms around me. “Thanks for a great dinner party,” he began.  “I’m just so proud of you…I thought you were going to pour that whole pitcher of water right on Grant’s lap…”

I’m not proud of it, but the thought HAD crossed my mind.

The issue that Grant raised is, for me, an issue with a face. A dear friend had written to me not long before that dinner party to tell me that he is gay. What was once fodder for a dinner party debate had turned the corner into something personal and urgent.

In my friend’s letter, he stated that he would understand if I never wanted to speak to him again. This statement crushed me. In our ensuing phone conversation, he said that the reason for this was to protect himself: “Once you tell this kind of news,” he said, “you  have to prepare yourself to lose a lot of friends.” I couldn’t imagine the fear or heartache he felt, and I reassured him that has been, and  always will be, a best friend.

And he is. This is the guy who stuck up for me when high school boyfriends turned out to be jerks. He was the one who reassured me that life would go on when I didn’t get a part in the musical. We went on college visits, endured AP exams, prayed together and laughed ourselves silly. He celebrated with us when Tom and I got married, and drove seven long hours to be with us at the hospital when our daughter almost died.

My friend’s revelation forced me to examine my own attitudes and language.  As I read articles and listened to the rhetoric on Christian radio, it didn’t take long for me to realize that we, as the Church, have made some mistakes in handling this issue. And believe me…in my journey to figure it out, my words have been, at times, tacky and very hurtful as well.  I need only to look in the mirror to confirm that Christians need to do better when it comes to welcoming non-traditional families. My friend’s concern about losing relationships after coming out is a very real fear; it breaks my heart to know that this fear and hurt is also experienced when dealing with the Church…it seems that for too many people, “coming out” means they can’t come in with “the rest of us.”

I’m one of the “rest of us:”  those of us who are broken and hurting and imperfect and stumbling in darkness…and desperately in need of the Light. The truth is, when it comes to the Church, there’s no “us” and “them…”

 There’s Jesus, and there’s the rest of us.

This Sunday, it’s our family’s turn to be greeters. We’ll stand at the front door of the church and open the doors for members and visitors. It’s not in our job description to choose for whom we’ll open the doors. We’ll open them to everyone…not just families with two parents, or to people who have never been divorced. Not just physically fit people or those who have never gossiped or lied. And not just people who are straight.

And we’ll say “Welcome…we’re glad you’re here….
Come in.”

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Photo credits: discountcollegethings.com

5 Facts for Friday {2-14-14}

Well, Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends! Hope you have had a wonderful day, with lots of opportunities to spend time with people you adore.

And now…
5ofhearts

5 Facts for Friday:
1. Going to Accents Salon and Spa is wonderful: friendly, warm comforting. It’s like Steel Magnolias without the diabetes.
2. Our pharmacy is offering a new medicine to aid digestion. It’s called (and I kid you not) “Smooth Move.”
3. I do not care for the “An Open Letter To…” trend online. It’s just not nice (and quite passive aggressive.)
4. Comfort food: Ham and Au Gratin potatoes. Yum.
5. In second grade, my mom helped me make potato print Valentines for my teachers, Miss Gemma and Miss Sanderell. Do you have a happy Valentine’s memory? Tell me!

Have a lovely Valentine’s Day, friends!
~Katie