If you are a parent of a student with Special Needs, you may have become frustrated by your child's lack of progress or wondered what interventions were "really" taking place at school. I am both a parent and an educator who has been on both sides of the IEP meeting table. I continue to be astounded by some of the lack of fidelity that occurs in the meetings. The before statement is not to discount the many teachers who work with special education students who are dedicated and have made great progress with their students. I am personally indebted to the many great educators who have made my children's lives better. That being said, what do you do if you are a parent and know that there is something amiss, but don't know exactly what it is? Here are some important things to remember as a parent.
1. The people leading your student's IEP meeting are hired by the school district to protect the interests of the district.
2. You are just one of many parent who have students just like yours. The have been numerous opportunities for the educator to practice their responses to your questions; so even if they are in the wrong, they have learned to cover themselves with diplomatic answers.
3. You're an outsider. The other people at the meeting all know each other and a strategy in mind before they go into the meeting. You most likely feel out numbered and intimidated. Remember, you are more powerful than you know. **This statement is not intended for those parents looking for a personal platform for their own interests but only for those who really want the best for their child.
Here are some things you can do to even the playing field:
1. Research the problem your child is having, Google is an incredibly powerful tool to use in gaining information about disabilities and interventions. And, best of all...it's free! I use it daily to access all types of information.
2. Ask to see your child's proposed goals for the upcoming year several days before the meeting so that you will know what is being discussed. Ask if there will be any new issues discussed at the meeting. This way you will know ahead of time what will be cover and have time to think about any questions you may have.
3. Stay in contact with your child's teachers. Email is a great way to communicate with teachers. They are usually busy all day and don't have time to talk to you and teach your child at the same time. Another plus about email is written documentation. I will talk more about this at a later date. Emails can help you with creating a time line and monitoring your students progress.
4. Always be kind, understanding and child focused. It is easy to want a quick fix for our children and there is nothing more devastating than seeing or perceiving your child is suffering. Look at what is working and start with that.
Attempt to become part of the educational team and support the teachers first. Remember, most people that get in and stay in teacher really do want to help kids. Teaching can be a frustrating and demanding occupation. Teachers are human and have good and bad days. It's your job to make sure your child's needs are being met so become educated, ask questions and stay in contact.
My goal is not for you create an oppositional relationship with your educators, but to educate you on how to have successful outcomes.