Last night I attended a great workshop at the kid’s school. It was on preparing for your child’s IEP meeting. For those of you who are not familiar with this acronym, IEP stands for Individualized Education Program. The purpose of an IEP is to determine what special educational services, support, accommodations or modifications the child may need to help him succeed in school. Before a plan or program is put into action, the child must first be deemed qualified. That entails a battery of test usually, evaluations, observations and meetings with the parents. It is all a bit overwhelming to be honest. IEP meetings can become very emotional. Picture yourself sitting in a room while a bunch of people tell you what they feel is wrong with your baby. (Okay they also point out the strengths too… but sometimes that is hard to hear.)
The workshop I attended last night started off by telling parents that they need to go into the entire process with the idea that they are an equal partner in their child’s education. You may not have a fancy title behind your name or a license but you are an expert. You are an expert on your child. After the cheerleader pep talk the workshop got really interesting.
Now I have attended a few of these IEP meetings already, and yes I admit, I became emotional. Every parent wants what it is best for their child. But as the mom of a special needs child, well I feel a stronger need to protect him. But going in there ready for a fight is really not going to be productive. Instead I was reminded, I should go in there prepared. And what I mean is prepared to answer the one question, the most important question of all that will always be asked at every IEP meeting be it the initial one or follow up one: “What are your concerns for enhancing the education of your child?” If you go into that meeting with two or three valid concerns that you have along with reasons why these are legitimate concerns, (Bring in work if you have it to show as example or be able to tell about a particular incident that occurred if you are talking about social or behavioral concerns), you now will be seen not only as a parent, but as a parent who is there to advocate for their child. You did your homework. You have observed your child, you have talked to the teacher ahead of time, you are prepared to work with the IEP team to develop a plan to help your child. The team will see you differently, as an equal in the process.
Oh and having a sense of humor really helps. After all laughter really is the shortest difference between two people.
Do you have IEP experiences you would like to share? Tell me and others about it.