Yesterday I talked about IEPs for 2 hours straight. Seriously. And then I was a little miffed when our facilitator insisted it was time to stop. (I know you read this Jane, so I’m mostly kidding!) But I was thinking, “Wait, what? I’m just getting warmed up!”
I could talk about IEPs and special education strategies and politics all day long. And, I have. There are probably only a few thousand people, at most, in this country, who know as much about IEPs and the IEP process as I do. I love reading about, learning, strategizing, talking about IEPs. Even though I know a ton about IEPs, every week I learn new things. I’m overwhelmed at how much there is to know about IEPs and special ed, really I am.
That being said, I am probably the worst person to ask for help at the last minute.
Spring tends to be a very busy season for IEPs. As a result, I sometimes get as many as a dozen emails a day. I have a disclaimer on my site that I cannot guarantee personal assistance, and in fact, I don’t read them all thoroughly. I honestly do not have the time–it could be a full time (yet non paying) job to answer the email I receive.
“Whatta bitch, that’s what your website says! IEP advice!”
Yes, yes it does. And that’s what I do–put it on here so that the information can be available to the masses.
But take for example, an email I opened this morning:
“Hi! I have my IEP meeting later today, please send me any advice you have that you think might be helpful. Thanks.”
Now, this is not an unusual email. Actually, several times a week, either via email or in our Facebook group, there is something to the tune of “My IEP meeting is later/tomorrow/in an hour, what advice do you have? What should I ask for? What should I prepare? What accommodations can I get?”
Deep breaths, deep breaths. (me, not you)
I try my best to be patient and empathetic, really I do. As I say, you don’t know what you don’t know.
You’ve recognized that you need help. That’s a start.
But I cannot help you. If I get started with you, one hour or one day before your meeting, I will completely overwhelm you. This blog is over 6 years old and there are almost 1400 posts on here. Most are about IEPs, so I think I could comfortably say that at least 1000 of them are about IEPs or special ed. So where would you like me to begin? Evaluations? Present levels? Progress monitoring? Goal development? SDI suggestions? Placement suggestions? Behavior plan suggestions? Apps? Books? ESY eligibility? AAC/AT?
Do you see my point? I would send you into the meeting completely overwhelmed and probably make things worse.
The biggest piece of advice I have for you–the IEP process (and it’s a process, not just a meeting) is ongoing. It’s 365 days a year. Do you want your IEP team only preparing for this meeting one hour before it starts? Then why are you?
- If you want the team to do progress monitoring throughout the year, you need to be doing the same.
- If you want the team to be re-evaluating (in the broad sense, not actual re-evals) all the time, you need to be doing the same.
- If you want the team to come to the meeting prepared to have meaningful participation and input, you need to do the same.
And that cannot be done an hour before or even a day before a meeting. It just can’t.
When I was working for an agency and had little choice about the clients I could or would take, we often got last minute calls. I have been at workshops or meetings with my boss, and she’d say, “Can you be at XYZ elementary today at 11 for an IEP meeting?”
So you know what we did in those situations? Listened. I went to those meetings, often meeting the child and parent just a few minutes before to get a quick rundown. I didn’t get to see IEPs or RRs or anything beforehand. So I went, sat and listened. Offered the best I could, as I am a fast thinker and problem solver. But mostly, listened to what the team had to say, then left.
This all needs to be done all the time, year-round. This is about so much more than just one meeting.
So if you need last minute assistance and you cannot reschedule the meeting, that’s my advice to you. Go, sit, listen, offer what you can. Don’t sign anything, and go home and regroup. You’re likely going to have to call another meeting, if your child’s IEP is inadequate. Hopefully this is a situation that you will only allow to happen once. Next time you’ll be prepared.
I can get you there. I can get you to the point that you do not dread IEP meetings and resist even thinking about them until the last minute. Really, I can. But you’re going to have to put in the effort. You’re going to have to commit to at least looking at your child’s IEP, their goals, their progress…at the very minimum you need to be reading this stuff quarterly. Minimum. My suggestion is monthly. You need to be corresponding, in writing, with your team at these 5 specific times throughout the IEP process.
Please don’t be offended. I know this sounds harsh. It is. This is your wake up call.
When you know better, you do better. Now you know better–this is about so much more than one meeting, and it deserves more of your time and attention.
These are the cards we were dealt. How we play them is up to us.