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…

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.)


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.

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





Weekly Wrap Up + Five Facts for Friday {3/9/12}

Happy Friday, everyone!

We’ve had a taste of spring this week, but I must remind you that my grandmother said, “It always snows three times on the daffodils.” So, we’re not quite finished with winter!

Springtime means more meetings at schools…it is always a treat to watch parents and teachers collaborate. I attended such a meeting this week, and I know the child will benefit as a result.

In Key Ministry news, we’re getting ready for TWO trips in April. We’ll be at the Accessibility Summit in McLean, VA, where Harmony Hensely will be teaching a workshop. We’re excited to see some of our favorite ministry folks, including Jolene Philo, Barb Dittrich, Jackie Mills-Fernald and Sally Redmond Brown. AND…we’re excited to meet YOU, there, too!  Are you coming to the Accessibility Summit? Tell me here.

Later in April, we’ll be doing a JAM Session in Knoxville, TN. Watch our blogs and facebook page for more details or email me for information.

In other news…I loved having coffee with my friend Shannon Dingle this week (thanks to cell phones, we can have coffee even when separated by hundreds of miles!) She is celebrating her “blogiversary” today, so hop on over and give her some applause! Shannon has written some incredibly insightful posts, and she has a knack for delving into the WHY of special needs ministry. She’ll be at the Accessibility Summit, too!

Five Facts for Friday

1. I do not wish to “spring forward;” I have decided not to participate.
2. In an effort to thwart young girl’s advances during middle school, a very nervousTom Wetherbee told her (in a note) that her face looked like a dried up fig newton. It’s good that there was no Twitter back then.
3. Tom has never told me that my face looks like a dried up fig newton.This bodes well for our marriage.
4. Washington Irving said, “There is a sacredness in tears. They are messengers of overwhelming grief…and unspeakable love.”
5.  Happy 100th birthday to the Oreo!: I like Oreos dunked in hot chocolate. How about you?

Have a wonderful weekend~

IEP’s at Church: Yes? No? Maybe So?

I’m a planner.

Anyone who knows me well can attest to this. (In fourth grade, I apparently made a full plan for my birthday party, calculating the time each activity would take and taking into account that guests might arrive at slightly different times…I also made sure that there would be enough time to ensure everyone’s comfort.)

Good teaching takes good planning…I talk about this often during lectures at schools and churches. The Federal Governement thinks planning is a good idea, too. In fact, every student who is identified with a disability that affects learning has a plan called an IEP (Individualied Education Plan). This plan lists the child’s strengths, needs, and current levels of performance. In addition, the plan, formulated by teachers and school staff, includes goals and objectives that create the basis for the child’s school year. Finally, the plan includes all of the supports, accommodations and related services the child needs in order to make appropriate progress toward the identified goals. Every member of the child’s team–including the child, when appropriate–works on this plan, signs it, and helps to monitor the progress.

So, If a student needs an IEP at school, then we should definitely have one at church, right?

A planner like me inwardly, gleefully shouts YES! YES! A PLAN!! Let’s make a PLAN!

We do need a plan…but the way we form a special needs plan–and the kind of plan we form–  really depends on many factors…

It depends on the parents…Some parents are very excited to share their child’s needs with a church staff, and want to collaborate with the team about goals for church. Others just want Sunday to feel “normal” and would like their child, as much as possible, to just blend in with everyone else.

It depends on the church staff and volunteers. Some churches might decide that part of their mission and ministry is to offer as much support as possible to families. We won’t assume that these are “big” churches or churches with large budgets…nor will we assume that churches that provide in-depth, individualized planning or therapeutic supports are “better” than those that don’t. Those assumptions are not grounded in truth. Every church should approach this issue by taking into account a number of factors, such as  the church’s culture, staffing, facilities, vision of the senior staff, and availability of volunteers.

It depends on the child/student. Some students are eager to accept help as they work toward goals…others are just really ready for a day of rest and fun (and that is the purpose of the Sabbath, isn’t it?) And…I haven’t met any teens with disabilities who have told me that they really want to have extra focus on their needs during youth group time…that is a normal and expected part of teen development, and we need to respect it.

It depends on the plan itself. We need to remember that the purpose of a plan at church will most likely be very different from a plan at school, because the purpose of church is different that school or work. I believe that what kids are learning at church is way more important than anything that will be taught at school, so I do recommend that churches and families work together to create a plan for EVERY child’s spiritual growth (not just kids with special needs!) In our ministry, we have created this form to facilitate the process:
GROW Plan for Spiritual Development
This also allows parents, churches and students to develop shared expectations; when we communicate about what our hopes and plans are, we are more likely to develop strong relationships that facilitate growth.

Mostly, it depends on God
. Before we plan anything, we really need to ask God what He thinks about our ministry and where He would like to see it go:  “The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation.” Psalm 33:11 NASB

Will He give you the guidance you’re looking for?
You can plan on it.