In A Perfect World
IEP Survival Kit
For many parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing, the earliest sign of spring is that growing knot in the stomach foretelling the approach of the annual IEP staffing season. I take comfort from many positive experiences with my son’s Individual Education Program planning teams, but like a lot of you, the process has sometimes been tense and painful.
In preparation for this unique rite of spring, this issue features the collected wisdom of some ace educational advocates and experts who were invited to share their favorite tips for parents on not only surviving the IEP process, but actually making the most of it.
It’s always encouraging to hear stories of how good things can be when everybody is on the same page about the child’s needs and there are no hurdles in implementing the plan. When things are good, they’re very, very good, but when the IEP meeting is bad, it’s horrid. To further complicate things, all kinds of factors can contribute to a difficult IEP meeting that have nothing to do with writing measurable goals or improving access to communication for our kids. There are often elephants in the room that no one acknowledges like:
Such things will probably always exist and they can definitely get in the way of productivity, so take them on. Bring your elephant gun, (I am obviously speaking metaphorically here). The truth is that the parent is usually the only one who has “the elephant gun” and there are plenty of gifted, passionate educators who fervently hope that parent will use it. Here are some talking points to load up with:
Don’t Leave Home Without This Advice
Parents can often affect changes from their vantage point “outside” the educational system more effectively than teachers can on the “inside.” Most of us don’t draw a paycheck from the system and aren’t functionally-bound by school “culture”, so the same limitations don’t apply. However, the most effective parent advocates are politically savvy; they learn how to navigate the system. Let’s face it, we are not living in a perfect world here, so it’s best to figure out how to function effectively in the one we’ve got. Frankly, it’s easier than colonizing a new planet.
Bolstered by a good understanding of the procedural safeguards and their legal rights, the best parent advocates I know employ strategies not found in the canon of IDEA Regs, which is why we’ve dedicated this issue of The H&V Communicator to gathering these gems for you. Hands & Voices has devoted a lot of attention to this important topic over the years. Many of our state chapters have parent-advocate networks to help each other out at the local level. If you want to be that person in your state chapter, we want to hear from you! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you want to dive deeper into this topic, there’s plenty of material at http://www.handsandvoices.org/articles/articles_index.html#adv
Amidst All the Variables…The Constant Parent
Every year, IEP teams bring new people and perspectives to weigh in on what it’s going to take to educate our children and launch them into the highest stratosphere of their potential. With each new year, our child also presents new issues and challenges to be met. From the first IFSP meeting until the last IEP, the constant presence of an empowered and effective parent is the key to the survival of your vision for this child’s future. The sooner a parent understands that s/he is in charge of the care and feeding of the IEP team, the deeper the investment of that parent in the process. The professionals are more respectful and responsive in return. The combined efforts of deeply invested parents partnered with responsive, qualified educators are far more likely to produce successful kids because…
Perhaps as important as any of this is the ability to maintain a sense of humor. Whether you’re wrapping up a four-hour IEP meeting, or just trying to find a snappy ending to your column, in a perfect world, you always leave’em laughing. So here are some inspiring final thoughts from our friends at http://www.mothersfromhell2.com/
10 Ways To Have More Fun At Your IEP Meeting