As our kids grow older, we get new things thrown at us with each one. When we said yes to the placement of my two adopted children, we knew there were special needs present in their lives and we would need to get them the proper help when they began school that fall.
Looking back, there is a lot I wish I had together at that first IEP meeting. I went in blind and blazing, thinking I could handle it without any preparation because I had been on the opposite side as a one-on-one for a few years. I wish I had looked to see if there was any advice or asked my mom(who has been an educator for years and a mom to kids on IEPs almost as long!) for some advice to bring in with me.
This one is for all the parents out there who are just beginning their Individualized Education Program for their kids or all the foster parents who were thrown into the mix after these plans have been created and need to advocate for the children in your care.
Read the IEP beforehand and write questions down to ask as you read through it.
Be ready for any questions you may have on what it specifics mean when approaching the meeting. If you read it beforehand, you also have the ability to Google any kinds of specific laws that may pertain to your child’s needs.
Bring the notepad of questions and comments and a pen; look and be prepared.
Looking prepared and feeling prepared matter. It will make the others involved in the meeting think you have a handle on what is happening and you will be able to record any comments during the meeting that may be important in the future.
If possible, have the doctors diagnoses on you during the meeting and any testing your child has been through.
All testing is so important when you are going for an individualized education program! Bring in any letters from pediatricians or therapists you may have previously brought your child to. It’s something that can make or break what you are able to get for services for your child.
Know your state laws and regulations.
I’ve worked in schools, I have two parents who work as public school teachers. I don’t say this with malice, I say it with a person who has seen first hand my entire life how hard teaching can be; the schools know the laws. They are however rarely blessed with an overabundance of help and resources. I get that. Sometimes because they are ill equipped(and again let me repeat, I do not blame the actual schools for this, I blame a society that cuts funding to education before almost anything else-but that entire passionate debate is left for another post…), they won’t automatically go along with the state regulations but try to do the amount that they can manage. If you’re aware of what your state requires, it will help you fight for your child.
Which leads me to my most important piece of advice: Don’t be afraid to fight for your child’s rights. Ruffling feathers is okay.
You are your child’s advocate. You are the voice in that room that cares most about their well being. For the foster moms who are reading this, sometimes you are the first person to show up to one of these meetings. You must fight for that child, as hard as you can, to get them all the help they need.
What would other parents who navigate the public school systems give for advice with IEP meetings? Or teachers?