Many of my early experiences with Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings as a parent were extremely intimidating and overwhelming. I would walk into the meetings carrying the weight of world on my shoulders in the form of worry, concern, hopes and dreams for my son. Yet, expressing all of those thoughts and feelings is difficult to do in a room full of people you barely know. It can quickly become a highly charged and very emotional situation. My personal preference is to not cry in front of people I don’t know well, therefore many times my focus would shift to simply trying not to cry. I felt that if I did it was an indication of my weaknesses as a parent and that I couldn’t handle the challenges I had been faced with. In hindsight I realized that it was a perfectly normal reaction to a very difficult situation. What I didn’t know then and I hope to emphasize now, is how incredibly valuable your role as a parent or caregiver is to the IEP team and your child’s educational success.
As educators once we have guided parents over the threshold into the world of special education it is our job to collaborate and create an IEP that will support student growth in education, hence the development of an IEP meeting with the team. The members of this team are driven by the skills areas a student is working on. There are always the core members, the general education and special education teachers, and district representative. Additionally, there may be a social worker, speech therapist, occupational therapist, adaptive phy-ed teacher, paraprofessional, school psychologist, principal and special education supervisor. Clearly these meetings can become quite large and daunting for parents.
This is where I hope to help reduce that dauntingfeeling and provide parents with the confidence I wish I had back when Ientered those meetings. This confidence can be found in the fact that the mostimportant member of this team, aside from the student, is the parent or caregiver.Yes, you are considered a member of the IEP team and this value is demonstratedin the fact that an IEP meeting cannot occur without your presence. Specialeducators know this and that is why every effort is made to ensure that you areable to attend the meeting. Your input is crucial to the success of your childand that is why IEP’s are not developed without it.
To further emphasize this point, I would like to shift focus to the written proposed IEP, something that should never be brought to an IEP meeting. Yes, I did say never. This is essentially a draft of what was discussed at that meeting. Therefore, it is illogical and presumptuous to present this when all of the team members have not collaborated. As an educator I feel very strongly about this due to my experiences as a parent. I remember walking into IEP meetings as a parent and being handed a proposed IEP and instantly feeling like I couldn’t make suggestions. Feeling as if it was already on paper and therefore unchangeable, which is furthest from the truth. Parents and caregivers we can’t have the IEP meeting without you so how in the world could we draft a proposed IEP without you? Your input and perspective is wanted and a very essential part of the IEP meeting. You matter!!
I hope this provides a little boost of confidence for your next IEP meeting!!!
Further information in our Advocacy resources.