You might think that I am making this question up! I am not! A friend of mine has two kids with IEPs. She has had quite a few struggles with the IEP process with one child, and has had to hire advocates and attorneys to help her get through the mess. So, when it came time a few months later for the other child’s IEP meeting, needless to say her guard was up. And she posted on Facebook that she indeed does own a StormTrooper costume and was thinking of wearing it to the IEP meeting the following day. Several people responded to her (not sure if they have kids with IEPs or not) with phrases like “you go girl!” and “go for it!” I felt terrible that she was getting bad advice, so I spoke up. Otherwise she might actually go to an IEP meeting dressed like a StormTrooper!
First, I get it. I get that moms and dads feel the need to put “battle gear” on before IEP meetings. I wish it wasn’t this way, that IEPs were not such a burden to parents. I wish that getting our kids the services that they need was not such a literal battle. It’s crazy that they are federally entitled to a free and appropriate education, yet it rarely happens without a fight.
But, in other posts, I’ve reminded you that as part of your “internal battle gear” that you need to remind yourself and prepare yourself that this is a business meeting. And you do not wear funny or silly or scary costumes to serious business meetings.
To help relieve some of the stress and pressure, it helps to have an overall strategy, just like the best military strategists would be ready. If you treat the IEP meeting as a once a year thing, it likely will always be a battle. But, this is a lifestyle. Like it or not, this is what we got. So adopt it into your every day. Stay involved. Stay in communication–and not just bad communication, thank the staff for good things too. Celebrate successes and voice your concerns as they pop up. The best way to avoid a due process battle is to treat every part of the IEP process as if you expected to end up in Due Process. Review your child’s records monthly, even if just for 15 minutes.
And, use your voice. Citizen Lobbying is a part of the IEP process, or I believe it should be. We need to let our legislators know, and constantly participate in the democracy, or nothing will change. Join the fight….there is a much bigger battle to be fought, and we need more stormtroopers. (Yeah, I know, stormtroopers are bad guys so that the analogy doesn’t really work, but you get the gist.) We definitely need more foot soldiers in citizen lobbying.
How did the story end with my friend? She chose against the costume and instead chose StormTrooper earrings instead. Sometimes that’s all it takes, a little reminder to ourselves, without going in full-blown costumes. And she said that the earrings were a friendly conversation starter and the meeting went well.