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How to Prepare for an IEP Annual Review, Pt. 2

How-to-prepare-for-IEP-meeting

With IEP Annual Review season in full swing, DifferentDream.com guest bloggers are willing and ready to share the benefits of their experience with you. Yesterday, Ellen Stumbo shared 2 things parents can do to prepare for IEP meetings. Today she’s back with 3 more tips you can put into immediate use.

Simple Tips Parents Can Use to Prepare for IEP Annual Review Meetings

Tip #3: Bring Food

Yes, I did just say to bring food. Why? Because food breaks an unspoken barrier. It says, “I want to be friendly, I don’t want to fight and I am thankful you are here.” Bring paper plates or napkins too.

The last few weeks I have seen one of the special education teachers stay for IEP meetings after school almost every day. She has kids at home, and it means she is not making it back to her family until late. Yes, it is part of her job, but she is also a wife and a mom. Bringing some brownies, donuts, cheese and crackers, or other snacks says, “I appreciate the time you have taken to be here for my child.” It speaks volumes when you do something to show appreciation for someone’s time.

Gifts is one of my love languages. If I could fit it in my budget, I would have taken orders from all of them to Starbucks, no kidding! Instead, I brought granola bars and cheese and crackers. Granola bars had chocolate chips in them, we were mostly women, chocolate is known to sometimes brighten a woman’s day. Enough said.

Tip #4: Know the Law

You want to be friendly, but you are your child’s advocate.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
   
for the rights of all who are destitute.

Speak up and judge fairly;
   
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Proverbs 31:8-9

A woman I trust and admire gave me this verse as I asked her questions about the IEP process. She is the mother of an adult child now, and was reminding me that yes, you want to be nice, but you also have a responsibility to be an advocate for your child!

Bring food, be friendly, but when it is time to speak up, you speak up. In order to do that, it is important that you are familiar with the special education laws! Here are some great resources for you:

  • Wright’s Law: The Wright’s Law website is dedicated to special education law and the law surrounding IEP’s.
  • Wright’s Law: From Emotions to Advocacy: the Special Education Survival Guide. This is one of the most valuable books you will ever have if your child has an IEP. It details and explains the law, your rights, your child’s rights, and what the school can or cannot do. Seriously, get this book! I in no way benefit from you buying this book, but it has been such a valuable resource as I learn to navigate the world of special education.

 

Tip #5: Take Notes and Ask Questions

During the IEP meeting make sure you are taking notes. Things will be said and comments will be made that you might want to come back to. Jut down where you asked for a goal to be included. Write the comment from the physical therapist that was encouraging. Make sure you take notes of the teacher’s concern about your child’s safety in the playground so you can go home and do some brainstorming as you process the conversations that took place.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions. If you are confused why your child is not getting more time in speech therapy, ask. If you still don’t understand, ask again. Be polite though, don’t point fingers, and make the questions about yourself. For example, you can say, “I am still puzzled though, if we all agree speech is the greatest area of concern, why is my child only getting 40 minutes a week of speech therapy?”
Remember, you are an important and invaluable member of your child’s IEP team. Your know your child best and you are your child’s advocate. Be prepared, be professional, and be ready.  And pray! Ask God to help you through the emotions of the IEP, to help you be a good advocate, and to help you build strong relationships with the rest of the team.

What has your IEP experience been like?
Ellen

Leave a Comment

Ellen and I would love to hear about your IEP experiences, so please do leave a comment if you want. And if you have more ideas about how parents can prepare for IEP annual reviews, share them, too. The more the better!

 

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7 Responses to “How to Prepare for an IEP Annual Review, Pt. 2”

  1. Amy says:

    We have only been through the IEP once, but I was shocked to learn that the teacher that will be implementing the IEP was not including in the IEP meeting. As a result, I asked for a second meeting to sit down with the new teacher to go over the IEP plan. I wanted to make sure that there were no communication barriers and that the teacher understood what we meant by certain things (as she had not been in the meeting to hear all the reasoning and discussion that surrounded the IEP).

    You would have thought I had 2 noses and one eye… Are we really the only parents who have asked for this? It just made sense to us to have a “meet and greet” with the new teacher who would be implementing the plan!

    When we arrived at the meeting, not only was the new teacher there, but she had asked a school mediator and a social worker to be there! I couldn’t believe it!! She had never even met us and expected the worse!

    I honestly didn’t mind them being there but was shocked that no one set our expectations. When the meeting was over the social worker and the mediator looked at the teacher like “Why in the world were we called into this meeting?” as they realized we were just trying to start a basis of communication with the teacher and make sure we were all on the same page regarding the IEP….

    We are no longer in the Public school system, but the IEP process was severely lacking in our little experience with it.

  2. Ellen Stumbo says:

    Amy, unfortunately, IEP’s are not pleasant, and this teacher might have had many negative experiences. Some parents really come out fighting before giving teachers the chance. Sometimes though, parents do have to fight.

    And now that you mention it, I don’t think future teachers are present in the IEP meetings, but you really do bring up a very good point (as we have not had the coming teachers present at any of the IEPs)

  3. Jolene says:

    Ellen and Amy,

    You both make good points about the IEP process. To prepare for IEP meetings as a teacher, I always thought of how I would feel as the parent. Doing so gave me compassion for parents and helped me interpret much of the educational jargon for them. Parents would be wise to use the same tactic and think of how it feels to be the teacher at the meetings. The meetings are in addition to their already full time duties, often outside of their contracted school day. But they attend because the meetings are crucial to their students’ success. To ask them to attend meetings for both present students and upcoming ones is a lot. Perhaps we as parents need to think of ways to make that load easier so teachers have time to create the positive learning environment all their students need.

    Jolene

  4. Ellen Stumbo says:

    I have heard of people that make an “about me” book for the new teachers with photos and information. They give it to the teacher when they meet before the school year and they follow up asking the teachers if they have questions.

  5. Jolene says:

    Ellen,

    Excellent point. Way back when, DifferentDream did a series about just such a book created by Cassandra Sines. It begins here http://www.differentdream.com/2010/04/how-to-be-a-proactive-parent-at-school-part-1/ and has three parts total. In Part 3, the forms for making a book can be downloaded.

    Also, even if the new teacher isn’t at the IEP annual review, he or she will study the file before school starts in the fall. Proactive parents, however, will follow the steps Cassandra outlines in the series several weeks before school starts.

    Jolene

  6. Amy says:

    To me, not including the teacher that will have the child actually in their class is like devising a strategy for war and going over it with the retiring general and leaving the commanding general out of the loop.

    The outgoing teacher’s input and observations are important, but the new teacher is the one that needs to be equipped with the plan.

    An “About me” book helps, but it requires a teacher sit down and actually look at it (the same goes for the IEP document). I don’t have a comfort level that they would. If I talk to them personally, then I KNOW they have the information and it is also a way to build a relationship and partnership with them. I desire to support the teachers for my DAUGHTER’S best interest.

    While I sympathize with a teacher’s gruelling schedule, I also know that my daughter doesn’t get to “clock out” of her “job” in this life. It is a 24 hour thing. The better relationships in place the better it is for EVERYONE!

  7. Tara Evans says:

    I agree with Amy. It makes no sense to have an IEP and discuss goals and concerns without the actual teacher there. To me, it’s a little strange and I too would ask for a second meeting. Only you know your child and if you know your child has issues in specific areas, you need the teacher to fully understand that. How can they help your child if they get a sheet of paper with goals and objectives and don’t fully comprehend everything there is to know about your child? I’m so confused..

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