Changing the meeting to change the
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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