When you need last minute IEP advice….
Likely a Special Education Advocate is the worst person to ask.
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 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.
Letters. I get letters.
I’m dating myself with that David Letterman show reference.
I sometimes get as many as a dozen emails a day. I have a disclaimer on my site that I cannot guarantee personal assistance. 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. I could get sucked into free full-time consulting if I allowed it.
Recently I received this: “Whatta bitch, that’s what your website says! IEP advice!”
Yes, yes it does. And that’s what I do. I 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? Do you have a list of accommodations that I can 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.
The best last minute IEP advice…..
Is no advice at all.
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 8 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 is that 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.
- Want the team to be re-evaluating (in the broad sense, not actual re-evals) all the time? Then you need to be doing the same.
- You need to come to the meeting prepared if you expect the team to do the same.
And that cannot be done an hour before or even a day before a meeting. It just can’t.
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Making the best of a bad situation
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.
Then, I did all the stuff with the parent that needed to be done. Reading the IEP, reading the evals, doing the meeting recap letter.
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.
This is great last-minute advice.
Please don’t be offended. I know this sounds harsh. It is. This is your wake up call.
Postpone it if you have to. But my advice is to go and listen. Take your full time to read and digest the IEP.
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.
Author’s note: This is a post that was originally written several years ago but recently updated. Again, please do not be offended by this post. I have heard from at least a dozen special education advocates who have said, “Omigosh, thank you. So often I want to say this to friends who ask for advice.” If you self-identify here in this post, you don’t need to send me a nastygram stating “Hmph, you’re supposed to be helping people.” Right. I do. All day, every day. That’s kinda the point.