“So what do you want me to do?”
I tried…oh, how I tried, to be diplomatic. However, my own exhaustion and frustration took over, and I replied tersely, through clenched teeth, “I just want you to follow the IEP. Have you read it?”
He didn’t respond.
I turned and walked directly into the principal’s office. Mercifully, he was available. I sat down and burst into tears. My child had failed a science test, largely because the testing accommodations on the IEP hadn’t been followed. It was a simple break down in communication, but it had caused a “series of unfortunate events,” from my child’s meltdown at home to my unproductive discussion with the science teacher to the principal’s office, where the sympathetic, yet puzzled administrator regarded me, at a loss for what to say.
As I reflected on the situation later, I pondered what went wrong. The science teacher hadn’t been given a copy of my child’s records. It’s easy to see how it could happen. After all, schools are filled with human beings, and mistakes happen. (I also reflected on my own communication with this teacher, and the mistakes I made in that conversation…not my best moment as a mom.)
This experience was one of the first times my child was dealing with multiple teachers, many of whom were not aware of the educational and health needs. Dozens of students in the school received special accommodations; regular education teachers have multiple layers of learning needs to remember and manage. I wondered what I could do to make it easier for those regular education teachers to understand my child, and make their job more manageable.
At the beginning of the following school year, I emailed of the teachers a one-page summary of my child’s strengths and needs. I described her interests, personality and her medical background. Finally, thanked each of them for the part that they would play in her life, and promised that we would do our part to be helpful.
The return emails I received were delightful. One teacher said, “I read all of the kids’ IEPs, but it was so nice to have the really important information right in front of me in my classroom…it helped me so much!”
That year, and every year after, this easy strategy has made all the difference. Taking the perspective of the teachers and trying to meet their needs allowed them to better meet my child’s needs.
This strategy can work well at home, church, and in community activities. Teachers, coaches and church staff can offer this to parents, or parents can take the initiative and offer it to them. Below is a copy of a template we’ve developed to get you started…please note that it is a Word Document, so you can modify and edit it to meet your needs.
You can add a picture of your child, a little clip art, or some color to make it personal. Please share your ideas!
Stay tuned… Tomorrow: Five Facts for Friday; Monday: “Meet ME:” Proactive Partnering with a side of self-advocacy