Welcome back to the ABCs of IEPs and the letter O. I took a break for a few days and got busy, and honestly, I changed my “O” idea a zillion times before settling on Organize and Ongoing. I thought about doing Outcomes, OHI, Objectives…and then landed here. Once I finish the alphabet one time, I will be adding new letters and topics all the time. So I certainly may go back and do some of those other O words. But for now, I wanted to remind parents to stay organized and treat this as an ongoing process…which it is!
First, believe me….I get it!
IEP meetings suck. They’re the worst. I’ve written about the unbelievable toll they take on parents. At what other point in your life are you going to go to a meeting, and then ALL of your kid’s faults, shortcomings and negative behaviors described to you? To make it worse, you ask for things to fix the situation…and are repeatedly told “NO.” It’s no wonder we don’t want to think about IEP meetings any more than once a year. But, I’m telling you…you have to think of it more often.
If you don’t spend the time to communicate and gather data, you will continue to hear the word NO. It is the data and the communication and the records that you keep that help the case. It’s learning to use the IEP process to your advantage…learning to use the system, to help make this less stressful. Trust me, it will pay off in spades in the long run.
This Letter O post isn’t going to have any huge awakening or a-ha moments (ok, maybe one). I’m just here to tell you that you can turn it around, and there is a wonderful support network associated with this blog for you too.
Tell me if this is what it looks like in your house–
- You get the notice for the IEP meeting and make plans to go. Maybe you send your concerns in ahead of time, maybe you don’t.
- You go to the meeting. You’re stressed. You cry. You get some of what you ask for and turned down for a bunch that you asked for.
- You go home, throw that big stack of paper on your desk and think “whew! glad that’s over, done for another year!”
I work with enough families to know that this is the scenario in many, many households. Many. I can’t even tell you how often I get emails, texts and messages in the Facebook group with “My IEP meeting is tomorrow/in 4 hours, and….” I’ve even had parents call me from the car on the way to the meeting…and this is the FIRST time they are reaching out for assistance.
I get it, it’s such a negative, stressful event that many treat it with avoidance. But avoidance only creates more unpreparedness which generates more negativity, stress and dissatisfaction.
Ok–here is one a-ha thought for this post:
“Only parents and advocates have their eye on graduation or the child exiting the school system. School personnel only have their eye on completing that school year.”
Think about that for a minute, because it’s true. School personnel work year to year…they are just trying to get to June. You and I are the only ones with our eyes on what age 18 or 21 is going to look like for our kids. And we have to prepare for our IEP meetings that way. Gotta play the cards we’re dealt, so don’t even bother with the “But why do I have to go to IEP meetings…why do I have to learn this…I don’t wanna…” Lots of things in life we don’t want to do, this is one of them. But we owe it to our kids to do it to the absolute best of our ability.
So, summing up this post and thought of organizing and ongoing….here are your action steps.
- Get your IEP paperwork organized and in one place. I created an IEP organizer just for this. You can buy it and use it every year, or come up with your own system. But I personally feel it is one of the best items on the market right now that helps with the IEP process.
- Set aside 15 minutes every month to pick up your IEP organizer and look at it. Jot down notes. What sticks out in your mind from the past 30 days? Make notes and reach out to the IEP team as necessary. The IEP organizer is designed to prompt you to think and act all along, rather than waiting for crises.
- Develop the Vision Statement and Elevator Pitch for your child, with them participating to the maximum extent possible. This will help change your focus and the team’s focus to the long term and a strengths-based approach.
- Join a support group, learn the IEP basics, but do whatever you can to learn the actual, legal steps and processes of IEPs and Special Education. When you learn tricks of the trade like an effective parental concerns letter and how to use PWN, you can make the process a game-changer for your child.
And that’s really it. Get organized and treat it as an ongoing process. And things will turn around, I promise.