Having a child with special needs is a very emotional experience. Having a child that is delayed or under performing at their age group is common and parents have to develop a plan for their child’s success in life. That brings in the school. Schools are legally responsible for providing a free appropriate public education (FAPE). For students with special needs that have an individualized education plan (IEP) they too have a legal right to education. Having a well-developed IEP that has goals that fit the needs of the student is challenging and emotional. The school likes to play on the emotions of the parent. It is almost that they want to emotional connect you to the child to distract you from the lack of services and support that your child is not receiving.
I have been angry, frustrated, worried, sad and overwhelmed in IEP meetings. I am not a person that likes confrontation or likes to fight about things so going into meetings to fight for what my child needed was not easy. It took getting very angry to come to a turning point. At that turning point, it came to me that our family was the first expert on the on goals and vision of our child’s success. The school no longer had a primary part in how or what my son would or would not become. I needed them but I didn’t need them to tell me how to educate or raise our son correctly. In early intervention, when so many crazy behaviors are happening I wasn’t sure what to do and need real professional help. So, my mindset was still in early intervention; thinking about how the school was going to help my son. Breaking and changing my expectations and dependence was the first and most powerful move in dealing with the school without emotion.
other suggestions to mentally prepare for an IEP meeting:
- develop a family vision for your child
- examine and write down your child’s strengths
- make a list of ways you help your child cope through challenges or how a therapist helps
- think about any negative comment or behavior that may be brought up and how that makes you feel; think worst case scenario
- ask for draft copies prior to the meeting so you can review the goals and make sure they align with your family vision
You are your child’s best voice and you are the strength he/she needs to be a successful and good person. I love my special needs child because he truly is special. He’s one of a kind and he totally needs an individual learning plan to teach other adults how to navigate within his exceptional world.