You’ve been called into a meeting with school administrators and teachers. It feels like it’s you against
How can you stand up for your child and get what’s best for their future while maintaining a good relationship with the school and teachers
I operate with a win-win-win philsophy when I work with parents as an expert advocate. The goal is to get what is needed for your child while preserving the relationships all the way around. I suggest that you adopt the same mindset.
Think about it, you’re potentially going to be with this school and school district for many years. Your job is to learn the system, and along the way, the school will learn from you that your child is going to get what they need.
Be the “expert” on your child.
You will need to learn many things along your journey. In a previous article, I stated that I don’t think you need to become the expert on your child’s disability and I still hold that belief.
What I believe is that you need to become an expert on how your child’s disability impacts your child’s ability to learn and be successful at school. There is a difference. You need to become an expert on how the disability affects your child so you can help your child reach their highest potential in learning and life.
Listen, I share your story as a parent of a child who has been through special education. It can be intimidating to sit at a table and be lulled into thinking that the teachers must know more than we do. They don’t. They know part of the picture. The trick is, to see the whole picture and make sure that your child gets what they need to reach their highest potential.
Get to know your teachers, and the school’s culture.
Every district and school is different. Take the time to get to know your school and your teachers. Some are open and supportive; others may seem adversarial. They’re not bad people. Most are just following a “policy,” while others may lack the appropriate knowledge. Ultimately it is your responsibility to take action and do what is best for your child.
Being organized and having a plan for your child’s future is paramount to creating a successful path for your child, and life in general. Preparation for every step of the way will pay big dividends.
Gather the tools you need. Have a folder with tabs and sections for each meeting. Have your questions ready. Enter all the contact information, addresses, and emails of the people you need to call into your phone. Have a physical copy of everything if required. This is, after all, serious business.
What do you think is going to happen at the next IEP meeting when you’ve informed the meeting organizer ahead of time that you intend to tape record the meeting? Then, you arrive early, 3-ring binder in hand, prepared and ready to take notes. Do you think they are going to take you seriously? Of course you are.
Let’s go with that for a minute. Let’s say that you also request an extra copy of the IEP for your advocate. Let’s also say that you’d like a meeting agenda and how long each person is expected to talk. Did you feel the power shift just a little?
Understand the assessments and what the scores actually mean.
This is something very important to understand:
Assessments identify needs.
Needs drive goals.
Goals drive services and supports.
Services drive placement decisions.
Teachers will claim they are the experts. But the truth is, you are the one who must know how your child learns. You have the right to second opinion assessments which you can bring to the table with the additional information that the school must consider when making decisions.
You must make sure that you know and understand what skills will your child have learned at the end of this annual IEP or school year, what is measurable, and how did your child access the regular education curriculum.
Take care of yourself and stay positive.
Yes, your children need your time and attention. So do you. Remember that when you take good care of yourself, you’ll be better equipped to take care of the ones who are depending on you.
They also need to see that you are capable of taking care of yourself and prioritizing that over them every now and again. That is called having a backbone.
Sometimes parents and in-laws are great, other times not so much. They can get worn out too. Or they might live too far away. Reach out to friends, your mom network, online support groups, and support groups.
Take a friend or support person with you to those IEPs. When schools have outside people witness the formal proceedings of a meeting, it can result in more productive meetings.
These are the types of issues that many parents tell me they wished they had understood at the beginning of their special education journey. Many parents are caught up in the emotions of the injustices and the grieving, anger, and frustration. I hope this helps you to focus and be at your best for your child.
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