You didn’t really want to engage in an Individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting with your child’s school, but situations have come to a head, and here you are: you’ve asked for the meeting, and the school district has scheduled it. Now what?
Often we are close to, or over the edge, boiling anger. Some teacher has mishandled your child’s learning environment; ignored an already existing IEP; or your parental concerns have reached a point where you want the school to assess your child and determine why they are not meeting predetermined educational goals.
So what should you do to make optimum use of the short amount of time you will have with the child study team?
1. PLAN LONG-TERM
Let’s assume that Ms. X has publically humiliated your child by calling attention to their speech impediment, and that has caused the entire class to laugh at your child, and they are now threatening not to go back to school. Your blood is indeed boiling, and you want justice for your child.
But today’s misguided treatment of your child’s impediment might be a symptom of an issue that could follow them throughout their education. So THINK LONG-TERM.
This will take you out of the immediate red-hot outraged stage, and put on the table several issues that will involve the team and you to tackle over the years. Let’s look at how that might play out at an IEP meeting:
What has the teacher noticed about your child’s speech problem? Has this ever been brought to your attention by any other professional? What did this humiliation consist of, and what triggered that teacher to call out the issue in public?
Does your child need an independent evaluation of their speech patterns? Is the speech issue interfering with your child’s social and emotional world? Have you noticed this among your family relationships? Has your child’s physician made note of this earlier?
2. IF THE SCHOOL HAS GIVEN YOUR CHILD A DIAGNOSIS, DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT IT IS?
Perhaps you have your child has already received a diagnosis of dyslexia, but your family has assured you that the child is young, and will naturally outgrow it. Have you done research on what dyslexia is, what causes it, and what the impact of this condition might have on your child’s educational future? There are numerous parent groups on Face Book where you can interact with other parents and experts. They can field many of your questions, and sometimes direct you to medical experts who work on children with this problem.
Going back to the first mistake we want you to avoid, you might not understand how this diagnosis might interfere with them receiving an appropriate education and learning the skills necessary to be an independent and self-sufficient member of society.
Never just assume that the diagnosis spells doom for your child, or means you should lower future expectations for them. They will pick up on this disappointment.
3. DO NOT LET YOUR EMOTIONS OVERWHELM YOU DURING THE MEETING
Your children are yours to protect and to advocate for; you may be righteously fuming over Ms. X’s treatment of your child. But this school, and this team, will be working with you for as long as your child is within the jurisdiction of the educational district. Of course you want to settle the immediate issue, but you might come to different decisions about how to rectify the problem.
You might find out that Ms. X did not, indeed, humiliate your child, but merely asked them to repeat what they said, as the speech difficulty made it hard to understand them. Perhaps the class did not, indeed, laugh at them, but your child did indeed feel humiliated. Under these conditions, how do you react? The classic “he said, she said” problem requires lowered emotions, and opening to the possibility that your child misinterpreted Ms. X, or you need to check with them again to clarify the situation.
The school might suggest a change of teachers; or a meeting between your child and Ms. X to discuss their misunderstanding. Would you be open to a novel resolution?
But what if it is a more serious issue, such as you wanting an IEP for your child but the team rejects their eligibility? How will you react then? Are you aware of the next steps?
4. HAVE A WELL-ORGANIZED FOLDER DOCUMENTING EVENTS AND CONVERSATIONS
Nothing will be more frustrating for the school team and for you if you arrive with a jumble of scraps of papers in no particular order. Did you write to the school about your child’s issue? Did you receive a response? Have these communications with the school been professional and fact-filled, or emotional and filled with accusations?
If you are not sure how to organize the ever-increasing volume of reports, test results, evaluations, and lists of experts with whom you have interacted, call us at CURBELOLAW and we will assist you in how to organize all of this paperwork so that your encounter with the child study team is as productive as possible.