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Changing the meeting to change the outcomes
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Instructions for Using This ReportChanging the Meeting to Change the Outcomes
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Placement

Changing the meeting to change the outcomes

Before the Meeting

Work to repair any deterioration in your relationships with people who will be at the meeting. Put aside your ego; remember what this is all about: your child's future. Your job is to be in partnership with educators; not to fight with them. Educate them! Resist the temptation to "get even," don't take things personally restrain yourself and maintain your equilibrium and dignity! Take a teacher to lunch!

Have informal (on the telephone, if necessary) pre-IEP meetings with everyone involved. Get a feel for what they'll be saying at the meeting. "Fore warned is fore armed." Ask for any copies of their reports ahead of time. Don't go to the meeting not knowing what's going to happen!

Develop relationships with other parents who are viewed as "leaders" in your school: PTA/PTO folks, committee members, active volunteers, etc. Cultivate them and educate them about you, your family, inclusion, etc. Make allies of them.

Surround yourself with friends and family and "role play" what you think will happen at the meeting. We seem to always be caught off-guard, not having the proper response when someone says something we feel is inappropriate, cruel, wrong, etc. Practice for these times; come up with "responses" that you can pull up when needed. Be prepared!!!

Complete this report and give copies of it to everyone ahead of time. This "final" report will be a compilation of all the reports you've distributed to others.
 

Plan the Meeting

Move the meeting from the traditional school site to a more neutral setting: your home (yes, your home!); the school library, cafeteria, or your child's classroom; or another community setting that's agreeable to all. Most educators don't like these meetings any more than parents do. So make it different: make it as pleasant as possible. Have refreshments! You bring them or ask others to bring some! Make it festive!

Wherever you have the meeting, don't sit around a table. It's a barrier you don't need. Sit in a circle. Change the dynamics for a different outcome. Sit next to the most powerful person there.
 

At the Meeting

You run the meeting! Ahead of time, tell the person who sets up the meeting that you'd like to open the meeting.

  •  Welcome everyone to the meeting, thank them for coming, tell them you're excited about working with all of them as a wonderful team to help your child, etc., etc., etc., and pass out refreshments.

  •  Ask everyone to please put on a name tag with first names only (get rid of the titles). You bring the name tags and markers.

  •  Tell everyone that you'd like to start the meeting by having each of them say something wonderful (positive, good, whatever term you want to use) about your child. This will take them by surprise, so tell them they can pass if they need time to think about it; you'll come back to them when they're ready.

  •  Pass out your summary report (this form or some variation of it) and give a brief synopsis of what you see for your child's long-term future. Let this be the driving force behind everything that happens at the meeting. Think big, think long-term!

  •  Have one or two people with you who aren't KNOWN as disability advocates (the previously mentioned parent leaders). Their support will help influence decisions made at the meeting; their presence gives you credibility. Your supporters should not sit next to you, but should sit in between the educators.

  •  Be prepared to compromise. ALWAYS have one or more things that you'll "give up." This makes you appear "reasonable" which, in turn, makes educators more willing to be reasonable.

  •  Go in to the meeting knowing that you'll be satisfied if the outcome is "what you can live with." This is the basis of consensus building: it's not that everyone gets everything they want, it's that everyone "can live with" the decisions/arrangements agreed upon.
     

Getting What Your Child Needs at the Meeting

  •  Be positive. Try not to talk about the past and what the school has/hasn't done. Let go of the past and stay focused on the future. Always start with a clean slate.

  •  If your opinions are ignored or dismissed, be a broken record. DON'T argue their points; that gets you off your points! Keep repeating, without escalating your words or tone of voice, what you believe about your child's strengths, needs, etc.

  •  DON'T get suckered in to any argument, whether it's about you, your child, the school, etc. You're not there to argue; you're there to educate!

  •  Be prepared to compromise in the short-run to ensure long-term success. Lay your cards on the table about what you can "give up" and what you can't.

Finally, and Perhaps, Most Importantly

About 90% of what goes on at lEP meetings has little or nothing to do with you or your child!!!! This has been verified by many teachers! The dynamics and outcomes of IEP meetings have less to do with you and/or your child than they do with the nature of the people attending and the positions/places they represent. l have witnessed, and have been told by educators, that what happens at an IEP meeting has to do mostly with the relationships between the other people attending!

Parents do not know, and usually never will know, about the internal politics and goings-on within our schools. Contrary to our feelings, all the folks from the school who attend IEP meetings are not "on the same side" nor are they of one mind! Within every school are principals who don't like a certain teacher and vice-versa; classroom teachers who don't like special educators and vice-versa; long-term relationships between staff members that ebb and flow; personal differences and life experiences between all staff members; and more.

Often, what happens at lEP meetings are skirmishes between educators that we, and our children, just happen to get caught in the middle of! You may know about a certain educator who agrees with you, but then at the meeting, this person appears to be against you! What happened? Somewhere along the line, this person was told to keep quiet by a superior. This is just one of many examples of what can/does happen.

What can you do about it? You can keep this in the back of your mind and use this knowledge to your benefit. Learn all you can about the individuals who are coming to the meeting and their relationships with others. Explore what you can do to help build bridges between them and/or exploit the dynamics for your child's benefit.

This is why you should not take personally what goes on at the meeting and why you must know that it's NOT you against them. The meeting is truly not only about you/your child. Educators are often fighting as much with each other as they are with you. Use this to your advantage!
 

After the Meeting

Write thank you notes to everyone who attended... especially to the ones you like the least. YOU make the effort to keep the lines of communication open. How can anyone ever treat you with disrespect when you always respect them?

Continue to build positive relationships with educators at school. Go the extra mile - isn't your kid worth it? Always remember that's what it's all about; not you and your feelings and your ego, but about your child's future.

Remember that we cannot change others. We can only change ourselves. But when we change the way we are/behave/act, others will change, as well. Keep your dignity, maintain your composure, and hold your head high!

We have the law on our side, with our due process rights. However, if you decide to sue, plan to move. If someone sued me, I'd do what I HAD to do because of what the law said, but I sure wouldn't care anything about doing more than that and I surely wouldn't want to be nice to them. Would you? If you plan on living in your community for a long time, build relationships, don't tear them down.

Your child's future depends on your actions today!
 

Prepared by Kathy Snow (with lots of help from others)
250 Sunnywood Lane, Woodland Park, CO 80863-9434
719-687-8194, Fax 719-687-8114, e-mail: KSSnow@aol.com
You may copy and distribute this report in its entirety Revised 8/97

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Last modified: 06/29/10

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