Well, I’m glad you asked. I’ve previously wrote about what an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is, and I highly suggest that you peruse on over and check that out before reading this. Mainly because this is a very subjective post and not the actual definition of what an IEP is.
An IEP is a plan that is put together for everyone at the school (the teachers, the lunch room attendants, the paras, etc) that interacts with your child so that they are informed about their disability and their learning needs, but unfortunately, it seldom seems to feel that way.
Sometimes the meetings feel cruel – it’s you against 5-8 other school members that tell you what the plan is for your kid. You almost feel like you need a lawyer to ensure your voice is heard.
When I started doing IEP meetings I was never told that they were parent/teacher meetings, so as a stay at home mom (at the time), I brought in young White-Bread and he romped around the entire time. The school members discussed Max’s needs and I felt like an outsider… like I wasn’t really needed there in the first place. I didn’t really think much about it then, but I know now that they should have told me from the beginning that it was a very serious meeting that should involve me, my husband, and anyone else involved in my child’s education – and not involve siblings.
But after a few years of doing IEP meetings, I’ve learned a few things (especially after the first few involved 8 other people discussing my child’s disability and what it means to them and me silently crying on the side until they finally noticed and passed me tissues). So, before your next (or first) IEP, take these questions into consideration:
Are they involving you?
If their one purpose is to talk amongst themselves, I’d ask why they invited you in the first place. Remember, you are the parent, and you know your child better than anyone else. They may have a college degree and know how to teach, but this is your child they are discussing and you know him better than anyone else. Your child needs you to be his advocate, and if you’re being ignored there’s an issue.
Are you lost?
Then tell them to explain. This meeting is for your child and if you don’t know what’s going on, then you need to make them explain it better.
Are you writing your questions down beforehand?
Trying to keep ideas in our head often results in lost information that could have been very viable. So remember to write your questions down as you think of them. You should be informed at least a month ahead of time of the time and date of the IEP meeting. As meeting gets closer, write down all of the questions that you can think of to ensure you ask them during the meeting.
Are they talking over you?
Stop the conversation. If everyone in the room has forgotten to include you, then the purpose of the meeting is over. You and your child are what is important in this meeting. Yes, they are too, but they can meet any time without you. You are here now, so make sure you’re heard.
Are you afraid?
Don’t be afraid. Remember, these people will see your kid for this 1 year, or maybe the next 4 years, but it is you that is going to spend the rest of your life with him. You raised him from a beautiful baby to where he is now and will be there for his future milestones. It is you that will be there when he has hard questions about growing up. It is you that will be there to pay for his first pictures, his first outfit for a play, his first sports event… for college, for life. It is you that is there for him well beyond those 4 years. Find your courage. It’s there.