In all the stores I go to, I see bunnies, chickens and lots of pastel pink, green and blue, in other words, it is Easter time.  In the traditional calendar that we all follow, Easter comes in Springtime.

There is also something that traditionally comes in the Spring…and unlike Easter, a select few know what I am talking about…and it is IEP season.

The time of the year that those who have special needs children know as a pretty stressful time of year.

IEPs or Individualized Education Plans are part of the world for many of our children.  

They are plans that speak for our child.

They tell the world what special needs our children have.

They contain the education goals that the school is working on with our child.

They contain the goals that speech and OT are working on with our child.

They contain the plans for our child’s future.

They are also the reason for much tension, disagreement and deliberations.

They are one of the causes that can make us feel it is us versus the schools.

I am looking an IEP meeting in the face for this Friday…and even after having them for some 14 odd years, I too, have so many feelings as I enter into the meeting.

So I thought I would share the things I do and think about that help me face the meeting and do the best for Elizabeth.

1. REMEMBER WHO IT IS REALLY ABOUT

Sometimes personalities come into play.  Sometimes attitudes are quite strong.  So it is very important to  remember why you are there.  To remember that it is about what is best for your child at this time.  I use to tell myself, I am speaking for Elizabeth, because she cannot.  I now, tell myself that it does not matter what others think of my feelings about Elizabeth.  It matters that we believe in her.  

What matters is that what goes down on that paper reflects who your child is right now and that the goals reflect what they need right now.

You know you would move the world for your child, so remember that no matter what you encounter, it is all for your special child.

2. LOOK AT CURRENT IEP BEFORE YOU GO

Even though you may have worked so hard on your current IEP, there are many details in the IEP that you might want to reread.  

It helps to be proficient with the current one, so that when new goals are proposed and new ideas are shared, you can judge if they are too similar to the current ones or if they show positive growth.

Also by knowing the current IEP, you can discuss ideas and thoughts better.

3. BRING THE RIGHT ITEMS

Speaking of the current IEP, bring it with you as a reference as well as paper and something to right with.  I know it sounds like common knowledge, but I know I actually thought they would provide these things during our first IEP. They did not.

So in addition to the above, bring support.  Be it your spouse or significant other, friend, or even an advocate.  Just, in my opinion, do not go alone.  IEP meetings can be more intimidating than you think.  Sometimes this is because of the fact that so many people are telling you so many things and sometimes it is because those very people may have strong personalities.  Whatever the reason, having someone there who is there for you is so important.  

4.  YOU DO NOT HAVE TO SIGN IMMEDIATELY

Of course, a signature is what is important when it comes to finalizing the IEP.  But in my opinion, I don’t want to sign it until I have a chance to read it again at home.  Maybe share it with our private therapists and tutors and get their take on it.  

If you take away the pressure of having to sign it, you can get through the meeting in a bit more of a relaxed state of mind.

5. IT IS NOT EASY TO HEAR ALL THEY SAY

It is never, repeat never easy to hear the words of the educators and therapists as they describe your child and their deficits as they compare to typical developing peers. No it is not, but something I offer here is ….before you go in.  Take a moment to think of a recent success for your child.  Maybe they spoke a new word or sentence.  Maybe they tried a new skill or mastered a new task.  Whatever it is…take a mental picture of it and think back to where you started.  And see the gains that your child has made.  Know that you are making a difference in your child’s life.  So hold onto these accomplishments as you enter.  It will strengthen you.

I am going to do all the above…I promise you. I will be thinking about how great Elizabeth is doing volunteering at the preschool.  The child who was afraid of it all is having a ball with 16 three and four year olds!  Yep, I will hold onto that as I enter the meeting.

I wish you a peaceful week and for those who are entering their own IEP meetings know I am sending you good thoughts.

Michele

 

 

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