Another post from Michael McKenna. Who has experience on both sides of the table-as an educator and as a parent.
An IEP Primer
There are some things that you, the parent, should be aware of when you go to an IEP meeting for your child. Since I have sat on three sides of the table; as a student with a speech disability, as a parent with a child with a Special Education classification, and as an Educator of children with Special Education classifications, I feel especially qualified to elaborate on this subject. There are a few Do's and Don't's to follow, and here are a few:
For Parents -
1. Show up on time for your meeting. If you know you're frequently late for appointments, make an effort to show up on time. If you have a legitimate circumstance that prevents your puncuality then that is fine. Showing up on time means you are putting your child first and foremost.
2. Do not bring your other children with you. Your focus is on the child in question to which the meeting is about; not your other children. Make arrangements to have someone watch your children, call the school to see if there is someone who can mind them, or cancel your appointment until you can find someone. If you must bring your children then you must, but please refrain from breast feeding your child during the meeting (yup, I've seen that).
3. Do bring an advocate if you need/want one. It's been my experience that the more knowledgeble individuals that attend, the better. There is nothing better than more insight as to your child's best interests. If you feel the need to bring an attorney that's fine too. Doctor? Nurse? Afterschool Special Education instructor? Yup, you bet; bring them all. Also, an IEP metting is not a social event - no eating, drinking, flirting, cellphone calls or texting messages, etc. You do not need to bring eight family members to advocate.
4. Do not use foul language. No cursing, expletives, swearing, oaths and threats (yup, heard them all, and sometimes in the same sentence). I, as an educator, am here to HELP. This is not to say that you need to kiss my ass ( I don't respond well to that method either to be quite frank) but you need to be civil and polite.
5. Do not threaten me or my family with bodily harm. Bottom line: get ready for a free ride in real-life police car because charges will be pressed against you (yup, I've seen one parent get hauled off....I wasn't in that meeting I would like to point out). It's really not going to help your child when they are wards of Child Protective Services and living under the foster care system because you flew off the handle and got yourself arrested.
6. If there is something you don't understand, ask; there is no such thing as a stupid question. If there is not enough time to satisfy your child's needs in one meeting, schedule another. If you think you're not getting treated fairly then say something. We, as teachers, do what we do because we feel the need to help...so we also have your child's best interests in mind. Re-schedule another meeting until you are satisfied but also be aware that there is only so much an educational institution can do given the infrastructure thereof. We are not miracle workers but we have been known to pull a few rabbits from top hats on occasion....be as flexible as you can and we'll appreciate your efforts.
7. Don’t look upon the teacher or educator "the enemy" because we're not. We don’t write policy or budgets; we work with them, and we do our level best to squeeze as much out of what we're given; oft times we're given very little to work with. I am reminded by the once familiar phrase spoken some 40+ years ago; "Either you're part of the problem or you're part of the solution," to which I add, "Or you're part of the landscape." Get involved with your school through the PTA, budget votes, different committees and meetings. Make sure you can back up your complaints and criticisms with action.
8. Educate yourself about your rights and responsibilities as a parent. There are multiple services available to you, the parent, about the in's and out's of yours and your child's rights. Learn them. Ask for help. Don’t be shy; this is your child's future at stake; both long and short term. When you are armed with knowledge it makes any meeting between educators and parents a more effective and efficient one.