Parents of special needs kids know this time of the year well: IEP (Individual Education Plan) Season! The last meeting right before summer begins to get everything squared away for next year. These are some tips that have helped me through the years.
- Learn to read your team – This is essential. Some of us are lucky to have a good IEP team that works well together. However, occasionally you will get team members who are adversarial or rude. The best advice I can give is to not be that person. This is difficult to do but as your child’s advocate you must remain as professional as possible. If you have a person like this on your team first find out why they are like this. Is it in reaction to you or are they that way in general? If it is someone you can have removed from the team do so. If not, realize that they are probably like this with everyone, not just you. Don’t take it personally.
- Study up – read up on your parent and student rights, Wrightslaw and have a good knowledge of the goals set by the last IEP.
- Keep all your paperwork – Get everything in writing and keep everything. If you can keep it organized even better! At the very least get a huge storage box and throw everything in there.
- Reschedule if needed – if you are getting too angry or emotional, reschedule. You can take a break too. Whatever it takes. You are the most important person on that IEP team. You set the tone. If the tone doesn’t work for you then reschedule the meeting.
- Change the dates of IEP’s – a lot of schools schedule IEP’s near the end of the year. The problem with that is teams are often rushed and nothing much can be done because it is the end of the year. Feel free to reschedule it for an earlier time. Perhaps January or February, rather than May.
- Go outside the IEP meeting – While decisions need to be addressed as a team, scheduling informal meetings with teachers, therapists, principal, special education directors, etc. helps. It shows that you are willing to take the time to understand that team member’s perspective as well.
- The IEP team is not the enemy – they really are not, and neither are you. Everyone is a person doing their job and in most cases doing what they think it best for your child. Be fair, be respectful, and listen. Request that the team do the same. A mutual respect for everyone goes a long way and all members should operate on this level.
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