Once upon a time…
I was a young mom with a little boy just diagnosed with Autism.
The label “Autism” never scared me. I already had an awesome little brother on the spectrum. Special Education and the IEP Process were a different story because I remembered what it was like for my brother. The tears, the arguments, the low self-esteem from not having the accomodations and services to be his best self. It ripped my heart to pieces to watch my brother and my parents struggle the entire school year.
I remember the night before my first IEP Meeting. I was completely unprepared. No draft paperwork, no parent input statement or advocate. I cried almost the entire night and during the drive to attend the meeting. When I arrived to the school, I looked awful and I remember sitting quietly in the office while I waited for the IEP Team to arrive.
The IEP Meeting
The meeting finally started and I think I made it 5 minutes before I began crying and talking non-stop.
Words flew out of my mouth like:
“I want everyone to see my son’s unique abilities”
“He is so smart even though he is non-verbal”
“Please help him, I don’t want to fight to get him the help he needs to be successful”
My son and I were extremely lucky. I had an inspirational IEP Team that recognized my son’s abilities. They allowed me to learn what is needed to create an appropriate education. Yes, I cried through the entire meeting. It wasn’t from sadness or anger though. I was so relieved that the team understood what my vision was for my son and they acknowledged me as an equal member of the IEP team.
There are many special needs parents that don’t have the same experience as I did and that is a shame. There are so many techniques that can be used to make the IEP Table more focused on the unique needs of the child. Communication, collaboration and data are the critical to have a successful IEP Meeting.
Although my story had a happy ending, I never wanted to feel the way I felt before that meeting ever again and I don’t want you to feel those awful feelings either.
It’s Time For You To Take Action
If you have ever felt under prepared for an IEP Meeting, I challenge you to ask yourself:
- Have you requested a draft prior to the meeting?
- Did you write your Parent Input Statement?
- Do you have your IEP BInder ready?
If you answered no to any of these questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for further assistance.