Yearly, children with special needs are required to have a meeting, which involves going over their goals and progress on their individualized education plan (IEP. This can also be called an Admission, Review, & Dismissal (ARD) committee meeting in Texas. You, the parent, have a lot of rights, and I hope that you take advantage of them.
I have attended ARD/IEP meetings at a total of 6 schools with countless administrators, teachers, and professionals. We have had good meetings, bad meetings, and some meetings where more than one person leaves in tears. I’ve got some tips so that the person who leaves crying isn’t you. IEP meetings are intimidating. You are one person with 10 other people on the other side of the table. For most of the meetings I’ve been to, the team is already there when I get into the room.
You need 5 things to make this a success:
1. A recorder. A small handheld recorder like this one (affiliate), or an app on your smartphone is very important. In Texas, one party recording is legal, but it is common courtesy to let the school know that you are recording. Ahem. I have saved all of the recordings in more than one place. They have come in extremely handy.
2. Something to drink. Not only does it keep your throat soothed while you’re talking, but it gives you a delay tactic. I always bring the largest bottle of water I can find to meetings. Before I open my mouth to say something, I take a drink. It can give you that extra second to let your brain catch up to your mouth. Or your emotions.
3. Pen and paper. You need to take notes. Even if it’s just things you want to talk about, or things you want to ask about later, document parts of the meeting. You may or may not look at them later, but it’s important to jot down things while they’re fresh.
4. Someone to be in your corner. My husband attends all ARD/IEP meetings with me. Here’s a brief list of the people who will be on the other side of the table: principal/assistant principal, general education teacher, speech language pathologist, occupational therapist, special education teacher, special education coordinator, counselor, licensed school psychologist, etc, etc.
5. Your patience. It can be extremely hard to attend an IEP meeting where you hear just how badly your child is behind his peers. There will be times where all you want to do is take your kid and hug them tight because they aren’t just a diagnosis. Sometimes, through all the reams of paperwork, people forget that.
Preparing to face an ARD/IEP meeting can be stressful, but a little bit of preparation goes a long way. If you’re a special needs parent, what tips would you add?