"They" say you can't run away from your problems, and I don't think that we're doing that by moving, but I do think that a fresh start is exactly what we need. I've spoken to the school district in Colorado where we plan on moving and I'm cautiously optimistic. They were very encouraging, and have a very progressive system set up there for kids with special needs. I will still go in prepared, not ready for battle, but armed with knowledge.
I hope that, no matter what the people at the school or in the system here think about me, they realize that I had to fight for my child and her education and what was right for her. To this day I know that I made the right choice not allowing her to go into a restrictive setting. Her year here at home, everything that she has learned and accomplished, has proven that to me. Still, I am excited for her to go back to school this Fall. She misses it a lot. I am excited to see what they have to offer for Keeghan and Kellsey. I know that Kass and Kam will thrive wherever they are.
So, now I hope to take last year and turn it into an opportunity to help other parents. Teaming up with Linda has been a great first step. She was an invaluable resource, full of legal knowledge and lots of great feedback. I also pulled a lot of wonderful ideas from other parents. When in doubt, ask the people who have been there, done that! Then of course, I threw in some stuff from my own personal experience. I hope some of these tips and ideas help some of you who are struggling with your children's education. If you have anything to add to this list, feel free! We'd love to hear it!
How to Survive an IEP Meeting
- Bring your ideas about goals and objectives. Don’t be afraid to speak up about what you think.
All of the people at the table at your child's IEP meeting are going to have ideas about what your child should be learning in the upcoming year. They may even have them already written out into a "draft IEP" which I will talk more about later. The thing is, you know your child better than anyone sitting at that table. While they are educators and they have the degrees, you are an expert on YOUR child. You have every right to speak up about the goals and objectives (and placement) they write into your child's IEP for the year, and most schools will WANT to hear your thoughts and ideas. Don't just sit back and say, "Whatever you think is best." Because you'll get railroaded. And may I add, and this is probably a "duh" factor for most parents, but please show up to your child's IEP meeting! It's important! I wouldn't bring it up if I didn't know of at least one set of parents who didn't bother showing up ever. *sigh*
- Breathe, and never believe that everyone at the school has your child’s best interests at heart.
- Bring a binder. You might include a copy of your state code. Include previous IEPs, testings, report cards, evals etc. Put a picture of your child on the outside.
- It is your legal right to tape record every IEP meeting as long as you give 24 hours notice. This could be invaluable to you later.
- If your school prepares an advanced "draft copy" of your child's IEP, you have the right to see it before the meeting! Request a copy!
- Always always bring an advocate or support person with you to every IEP meeting!
- Never use the word "best" always use the word "appropriate". The school does not have to provide what is "best" for your child.
- Bring food! It adds a personal touch and lets them know you are wanting to play nice.
- Make sure you understand everything in the IEP before you sign it! Take it home and look it over. You have 10 days to return it or file for mediation. Never sign something you don't agree with 100%!
- Be realistic about what the school can and should provide, but then expect them to follow through. No excuses.
- Leave your emotions at the door.
- An IEP is individualized to your child. It doesn't matter what any other child is doing.
I don't care if every other child with Down syndrome in the entire district is sitting in a Life Skills classroom right now, that doesn't mean it's appropriate for my child. I don't care if every other child with Special Needs in the school is only getting 30 minutes of group speech therapy once a week, if you feel your child needs more (or individual therapy), say so! Just because every other child in the class has the goal of learning to tie their shoes (and that's a totally loose example so don't slam me for that), it doesn't mean that goal needs to be written into your child's IEP. It doesn't matter what the other kids are doing, what matters is what is appropriate for your child. Get it? Got it? Good!
- Be sure that all team members are present. You, your child's teachers, your child's therapists, etc. While you can call an IEP meeting any time you wish, sometimes the annual review is the only one you need. Attendance is important!
OK so there was so much more to our presentation, but this was the end of the IEP tips. I will do a part two later this week. I hope that some of you found this helpful! I wish you all could have been in our session. We received some great feedback and a lot of other wonderful tips from parents and teachers alike... none of which I can recall right now. If I can remember them later I will add them in! Thanks for reading if you got this far. I look forward to your constructive feedback! :)