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