Part 2: Who Will be at My Child's IEP Meeting?

On the School's Side

Guidance Counselor: Your child's counselor may be pulled in to attest to problems, coordinate class selections, or sign off on a plan. If you've already met and talked to the counselor on a regular basis, this shouldn't be a problem, unless you've clashed. Even then, though, you'll know what to expect.

Transition Coordinator: If your child is moving from one school to the next, a representative of the future school may want to be in on the planning meeting. You may want to arrange for this. You may want to talk to this person in advance.

Paraprofessional: The good part -- Having your child's aide in the meeting can provide another firsthand source of information from someone who likely has your child's interests at heart. The bad part -- If your child's aide is in a meeting, your child's aide is not with your child. And who is, exactly?

District: This probably means you're in trouble, you pushy parent, and someone's come from the home office to apply the smackdown. Whether this individual has any particular knowledge of your personal child and his or her needs is another matter entirely.

On Your Side

Your Spouse: Presenting a united front as your child's parents makes it apparent that you're involved, concerned, and participatory.

Your Child: This is the person the plan is being made for, after all, and having him or her present as a living breathing human and not as a list of deficits can keep everyone on track, not to mention giving your child an introduction to self-advocacy. Still, would you want to be in that room, as a child, with people talking about you? It freaks some kids out. It freaks some adults out, too.

Your Friend: Having a sympathetic companion can make you feel less ganged-up-upon, and can also serve as a second brain to remember what went on and corroborate bad treatment. Don't spring the extra person on the team, though; let them know in advance you're coming with an entourage.

Your Paid Advocate: A hired gun who knows the law better than you do and isn't afraid to call the house's bluff can put you in a powerful position. There may be times when the stakes are so high that you'll need to go this route. If you're not there yet, though, the presence of an advocate may be seen as a sign of bad faith and a threat, and close the door to cooperation.

And now, the star of the team, the number-one MVP.

You.

Yeah, you, the parent. You are the most important member of your child's IEP team, far and away. Don't let those suits convince you differently. You are the expert on your child, and your child is the reason all those people are sitting there. You are the only one to have seen your child in multiple settings, in multiple school years, in multiple moods. You are the only one who has talked to the doctors and the specialists. You are the only one who has traced your child's development from early days until right now. And you are the only one who will still be involved in your child's care years from now, when the decisions made at this table will bear fruit.

Since that last one is the only thing you really have control over, consider these three questions:

Do you dress the part? If you're showing up at meetings in jeans, a T-shirt and sneakers while everybody else is in business suits and shiny shoes, you're sure giving off a "just here to sign, ma'am" vibe. You don't have to drop a month's salary at Brooks Brothers or anything, but grown-up attire wouldn't hurt.

Do you make a professional presentation? Whatever you expect of the school personnel at that table, expect the same from yourself. If you expect them to document their observations and recommendations, document yours. If you expect them to report from records rather than memory, bring records of your own. If you expect them to deal in specifics and facts rather than platitudes and preconceptions, watch what you say, too.

Do you do anything but go to meetings and sign papers? Think about how infuriating it is when some district upper-up who has never met your child drops in on a meeting and, on the basis of a light scan of your child's file, starts setting policy and goals and expectations. Then think about what teachers and administrators must feel about parents who make no contact at all during the school year, then descend in a meeting to throw questions and judgments and orders around? Keeping up a constant dialog throughout the school year will not head off all problems, but it will squash the stupid little ones that get going due to lack of communication and connection.

The bottom line is, if you want to be a member of the team, then act like a member of the team. Your child will come out a winner.

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Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I empower busy elementary special education teachers to use best practice strategies to achieve a data and evidence driven classroom community by sharing easy to use, engaging, unique approaches to small group reading and math. Thanks for Hopping By.
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