Spring brings about so many wonderful things 🙂 Flowers, fresh air, longer sunny evenings, beautiful runs with friends… I look forward to so many things. And let me just tell you, Ollie’s IEP meeting is not one of them!
IEP’s can seriously feel like going to the DMV at times. Picture dark and grey… When the forms are slid across the table, there are countless boxes, names, and dates. There are terms and acronyms. What does this all mean?!
IEP’s used to freak me the heck out. But with time and great friends along the way, they’ve become really manageable! I met with a sweet friend last week who is making a transition for her son. The fear and stress that goes into these meetings is overwhelming. Will my child get the services that they need? Will the school care about what’s important to me?
Parents often times feel powerless and downright clueless when it comes to how to interact in these meetings, what’s expected of them, who’s in charge, and what can be done if they don’t like the outcome (hint: don’t sign anything until you agree with whats on the paper!).
I remember feeling so scared that Ollie would be bound to his chair. At home he loved to crawl around the house, but to keep him cleaner, out in public he used his wheelchair. When we met, I shared my concern that he needed to move around and that he loves his independence. He needs to crawl in order to have the opportunity to learn how to walk better. The school was concerned that he would feel bad that he wasn’t at eye level with his peers. While I care about him having eye contact with his peers, I knew he’d be getting plenty of that. I needed him to move and to feel confident in the way that he does things!
In sharing my concerns, the school was great about making accomodations for him. We made a lot of compromises, but none that seemed to take away from the care that Ollie would receive. We fine-tooth combed EVERYTHING.
Ollie is now in 1st grade. He’s in life skills and general ed, 50/50. He has the most incredible I.A. (instructional aid) and interpreter on the planet. They are a great team and I know he is always getting the best care. We text during the day if he’s seeming a little bit off. We check in about new signs. I’m in contact with them every day, Monday-Friday and I cannot say enough wonderful things about them. I sincerely hope they get special priveleges in heaven!
As for Ollie’s IEP meetings, I wanted to share some things that have been game changers for me:
- Know your rights. The teacher by law has to give you a handbook with your rights. Look through it. Become familiar. I know it’s confusing… but just humor me 🙂
- Bring some goodies! These teachers have worked hard! Bring something to lighten the mood or show you care about their hard work! Last meeting, I spent $30 at Trader Joes. Easy peasy. We had healthy snacks and some cookies. I thought pretty seriously about sneaking some wine in, but eventually thought better of it 😉
- Don’t sign until you agree with it. You need to be comfortable with what the plan is before your signature is on there. It can be nearly impossible to change once it’s signed. So be selective.
- Bring support. Sometimes I need someone to come with me because I feel insecure. Sometimes I need it because I’m overwhelmed or confused about the terminology. Don’t hesitate to include someone! You are able to invite ANYONE you want! Bring a professional, retired teacher, friend, spouse, etc. Just make sure you share what your goals are in having them come so they know how they can best support you.
- Keep in mind, (most likely) everyone cares deeply for your child. You are sitting with a team that wants your child to succeed! Disagree, debate, hash it out. But do it kindly and respectfully. You all have the same goal.
I hope this helps friends… My heart goes out to you as you’re preparing for your childs end of school meetings. Treat yourself once it’s over! Cry if you need to. Binge watch television if you must 😉 Grab a glass of wine and unwind.
You are kind. You are a warrior. You are your childs best protector on this earth.