Why IEP Parents Should Never Agree to the “Let’s just Wait and See.”

a mom is told let's wait and see at an IEP meeting

Let’s Just Wait and See.

I’d be willing to be my house and my car that 99% of all IEP parents have experienced the “Let’s just wait and see.” It’s one of the most common and most effective stall or delaying tactics when a parent asks for something on the IEP.

It goes like this. You’re in an IEP meeting. You suggest something to your IEP team. It doesn’t matter what it is–another evaluation, more related services, a different intervention strategy. Your idea is briefly discussed until one school staff member speaks up and says, “Well, let’s just wait and see.”

And what happened next? You probably agreed to this. You likely nodded and (wrongfully) assumed that surely at the next meeting this will be added to your child’s IEP.

But, in the immortal words of Martin Luther King, Jr.,

“Wait” has almost always meant “Never.”

MLK, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail

First, I mean no disrespect to him or other oppressed people. Certainly getting beaten and jailed is worse than an IEP meeting. Still, disabled children are a marginalized population and similarities can be drawn.

My point is, even after all these years, the sentiment remains the same. Wait means never. The IEP team has no intention of following up on your request. If they did, you’d receive a PWN for it. And again, I’d bet 99% of the time, that doesn’t happen.

It’s not often that in IEP advocacy or in life, that I give answers that are absolutes. Right? We’re taught to stay away from the words always and never. But that rule itself inherently asks you to not abide by it–because one rule isn’t always to going to apply to everything.

This is that time. I’m taking a stand. From here on out, if you hear “Let’s just wait and see” at an IEP meeting, I want you to reject that solution. Every single time.

If “Wait and Sees” meant interventions added to IEPs….I’d be out of a job. Happily out of a job, I might add.

Why “Wait and See” should be rejected.

First, I tell Moms all the time–go with your gut. A mom’s gut instincts are rarely wrong.

Second, there is nothing to be gained by waiting. Nothing. The only advantage to doing the “wait and see” is that it is less work and money for the district, at this moment in time. That’s it.

To the contrary, when you agree to the wait and see, the gap between your child and his age peers widens. He/she falls further behind and it takes more time, more money and more interventions to have them catch up. All the while crushing the child’s self-esteem. Is it really worth it, to wait another 6-12 months?

This is an actual documented phenomenon. It’s called the Matthew Effect.

chart explaining the matthew effect and reading skills
Click image to read more.

We know what works for these kids. The science is there on how to teach kids to read, and what interventions work. When was the last time you saw a learning disability self correct?

Lastly, when a parent brings a concern to the IEP meeting, they didn’t just witness that concern for the very first time that morning. This has likely already been going on for quite a while, they just waited until the team was together to bring it up. A mom doesn’t just wake up on the day of her IEP meeting and say, “Hey, I think my kid is dyslexic. Today I’m going to ask for evals.”

Chances are she’s already nervous, anxious and wasn’t assertive enough to ask for this, independently of the IEP meeting. She waited until today. But the problem didn’t appear today.

A Polite Way to Say “No.”

The “wait and see” is just a polite way to say no.

If it meant anything else, the IEP team would be scrambling to:

If they truly intended to wait and see and follow up, they would create the paper trail to make that happen. When has either of those things happened when you got the “Let’s just wait and see?”

My guess is never. Because wait means never. Chances are they don’t have the data to support denying your request. If they did, they’d have no problem giving you a PWN declining your request.

How to Rebuke the “Wait and See.”

First, if you are not naturally assertive, you may have to rehearse conversations. Honestly, I practice difficult conversations when I’m driving by myself. Once you say it out loud a few times, it is easier to do in the moment.

Make sure your IEP Data Collection is solid. If you’re asking for an IEP evaluation, have several examples written out, listing your concerns. Gather homework assignments, report cards, progress monitoring reports and whatever else you have that makes your case.

Engage your child to the maximum extent possible. Invite them to the meeting to make a statement, or help them create a video reiterating these concerns.

Do your ask at the meeting. Have your counterpoints ready. When you get the wait and see, respond with something like:

Actually, I don’t want to wait. I’ve already been observing this issue for X number of months, and waiting is only going to put him/her further behind their peers. And, it may (pick one: make behaviors worse, contribute to school refusal, grades suffer, etc.).

Here is my request in writing. If the district is declining this request, I’d like to receive that response on a Prior Written Notice, as is outlined in IDEA Procedural Safeguards. Thank you.

your response to “Wait and See”

Seriously, practice that. Change it up as appropriate. And let’s put an end to the wait and see.

how to organize iep papers

Pre-emptively Squashing the Emails I’ll Get.

So, I know this is going to happen. School personnel are going to email me, angry. Saying things like “Sometimes the wait and see is totally appropriate!” and “We can’t just be giving out all the things that parents ask for!”

Ok, I hear you. But first, the next time you feel tempted to say “Let’s just wait and see” I want you to do this. If you are going to say it, own it. Truly own it and do it. Make sure that ask gets added to Parent Concerns and make sure it is in the IEP and on a PWN. Follow up. Create the paper trail so that it is a real “wait and see.”

If you believe in “Wait and See” then fully own it and put measures in place so that the concern is revisited in the future.

Second, if your ‘Wait and See’ means never, you need to own that too. Don’t hide behind Wait and See. Say no. And at least have the guts to say no, mean it, and put it on a PWN. If you have the data to support your ‘no’ this shouldn’t be a problem.

Time to Get Honest in IEP Meetings.

If I could speak to LEAs for a moment…..

Parents know when they’re being gaslighted. Today’s IEP parent is eons beyond their peers from just a decade ago, thanks to social media.

When you deny a request and give a “let’s wait and see” you are making the problem worse. Because this is what happens 99% of the time.

Child gets worse. Behavior gets worse. Child becomes more expensive to remediate. And these are only the issues that affect the school–I haven’t even dug into what happens to a child’s psyche when they go without needed help.

Parent learns more, comes to meeting with more ammunition. Parent is now more educated on IEPs. And they are pissed as hell when they find out you’ve been stalling and gaslighting all these months or years.

And now instead of a cooperative parent, you have an angry and often-times litigious one. The relationship is down the drain.

We have a child who has gone from Learning Disabled to Emotionally Disturbed, all because you wouldn’t add reading interventions. It’s getting harder and harder for me to be “on both sides” and argue for school districts, when sentiments like the one below are increasing in frequency.

All this happened because it was easier for you to lie in the moment and say “Let’s wait and see….” instead of either adding the requested item, or at least being honest.

“At this time, the data does not support us doing this because…..” At least be honest. Say yes, say no…and give a PWN.

Because wait means never.

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