reflections related to disability advocacy, family and (needed) cultural change
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Try this Tuesday: About that IEP
Oh yes, it is that season again!!! Here are some tips I hope you find helpful as you prepare for your IEP meetings.
1. Organize your thoughts. Someone gave me this acronym and I use it as a checklist for myself: MAPS: Management needs, Academics, Physical needs, Social needs. I divide a big piece of paper in quarters and brainstorm each area, then organize what I come up with. Lots of folks have different systems, but that seems to work for me.
2. Organize your papers. It helps, trust me. Go see the possible placements, meet the people involved.
3. Know your rights. Your child is entitled to an education as a citizen—not IF he is toilet trained, or WHEN she becomes more independent. NOW. If they need support to be successful, they can have that support. Maintain perspective—it will cost your community far more if your child is not educated than it will cost to educate them. Hold your ground.
4. Practice phrasing everything in terms of needs. So instead of saying “we want Susie to have the limousine” say “Susie needs a vehicle roomy enough to…”
5. Deal with your feelings. Before the meeting. Vent to your friends, your mom, the people you work with and your advocate. New parents are dealing with many new feelings, seasoned parents are dealing with HISTORY—don’t go into the meeting full of pent-up emotions. You want to be able to think as clearly as possible. Some emotion makes everybody care—too much can derail the whole process.
6. Consider your negotiables and non-negotiables. Consider the possibility of many paths to the same outcome. I wanted an additional year of pre-school for my daughter—within limits I could be flexible about WHICH pre-school.
7. Consider the school’s point of view before your meeting. If you don’t know what their point of view is, ask them. You need to be able to address their concerns. And, if their ideas are vastly different from your views, you need time to get yourself into a “respectful, but not agreeing” mindset. That mindset is necessary for the team to function. A shocked yell of “WHAT the _______!!!!!” can really take a meeting down a wrong road…
8. Bring someone with you. Bring your spouse, a friend to take notes, your clergyperson (who can share how helpful your child is in Sunday school) or an advocate. It is so helpful to have another person who witnessed what went on. And they often add perspective to the meeting (make sure well ahead of the meeting that you and whoever is going with you are on the same page, of course.)
9. Plan several ways to explain your perspective. At one of my son’s meetings they wanted to discontinue all of my son’s accommodations because he wasn’t improving (he has a learning disability.) I was able to turn things around by pointing out that accommodations aren’t therapies, accommodations are like eyeglasses: glasses don’t fix people’s eyes, they just adjust eyesight, and people who wear them can’t function without them—ever…
10. Strategize. When there is some disagreement much of the team will be at the table geared up for a fight. They expect (and will goad you into) direct assaults, anger and negativity. If you can surprise them with a relentlessly positive perspective, humor, well placed questions,and relationship-building strategies amazing things can sometimes happen.
Good luck to us all! What else would anyone recommend?
I am the mother of three, wife of one. I am a Partners in Policymaking graduate and a committed disability advocate. I want to catch up on my scrapbooking, learn more about art-journaling, get my house in order, read all the books I have set aside to read and change the world--not necessarily in that order. The opinions in this blog are my own and not those of any of employers.