This blog is being written by a teaching parent. I am a teacher, but I am always a parent first. I am going to explain some things that I did the past few days to get ready for an important meeting tomorrow at my son’s school. I want to be clear: I am not giving advice. I am telling you my preparation story. Let me apologize for a dry blog post, but I do want put it out there, in case anyone can find it helpful. Once again, I am NOT offering advice…
Tomorrow, hours after the classroom presentation, I have my son’s IEP meeting. An IEP is an Individualized Education Plan; it’s a legal document that says exactly what a child needs extra help with and how it will be delivered. Each year, before it expires, we have to meet as a team to make sure that it still meets my son’s educational needs. Someday, if my son does not qualify for special education, I can still put him on a 504 Plan because of his diagnosis, which is technically PDD-NOS.
First, I listed my son’s strengths. I considered things he does really well at home and with friends. I am excited to hear his strengths in the classroom too. I also made a list of concerns that I have about him as a child and a student. For example, I wrote down reading words as a strength and inferencing (making conclusions based on information from the book) as a concern. I try not to have a long list, but I do list EVERYTHING, even if I don’t bring them up, I have them down in case I need them.
Secondly, I found and read his current IEP. I am lucky, I am a teacher and I know what many of those things mean. If I didn’t know what they meant, I would write down questions parents are allowed to ask questions until they understand. I placed sticky notes on the IEP on areas that I am concerned about, or that I don’t think apply any more. I also wrote down LOTS of questions to ask the professionals. I made sure my questions were focused on the goals of the IEP. (I try really hard NOT to treat the IEP like a parent-teacher conference. Those are different. The IEP is about how his delays and educational concerns will be addressed.)
I know my rights as his parent too. With my notification, I received a current copy of my rights, I looked through them to see if anything has changed. (If you have a child in special education, read your rights. They are good to know.)
Finally, I looked at his plan and current services. I am prepared with ideas in case they decide that certain services are no longer necessary. We are a team, and I am a member on it, as a parent, my opinion matters, even if I don’t always get my way. I have a feeling one of his services will be dropped tomorrow. While, I am very concerned about it, I have looked at how it has been serviced the passed two years. I am ready with concerns in that area, but I am prepared to accept the decision of the team, since it most likely is not necessary because of the way the public school can address it. I am considering going private with it, or at least having a professional consultation so I can help him at home.
Tomorrow, to the meeting, I am bringing my notebook, his IEP, a black pen, and a positive attitude. Showing up angry or defensive won’t do anyone anything. Instead, I go ready to advocate and speak up, but also remembering we are all on the same side. School professionals want what is best for the student, and I truly believe that. However, this is my chance to be my son’s voice and to make sure his needs are being met. I really don’t want a repeat of the playground problem from two weeks ago and that is my main concern.
At the meeting, the only thing I have to sign is the attendance form. I do not have to sign the IEP tomorrow; however, I normally do. Once again, I believe in the professionals at my son’s school. If I am not comfortable with the decisions of the team, I do get to think about it or take time to ask questions. I do need to sign it before the other one expires, so he can have a working IEP in place.
I hope I have thought of everything and I am ready for the meeting tomorrow. I want to trust professionals, but through our autism journey, I have learned to know as much as I can, and be ready to advocate. While I do trust our school’s staff, I know that Scott and I love our son more than anyone. It is our job to make sure his needs are being taken care of every moment of every day.
Another resource: 10 Common Mistakes Parents Make at an IEP (I am not endorsing this website, I am sharing something I found online that I found helpful.)