It’s almost that time... time for another IEP meeting.
You know, the meeting that you get to listen to all of the areas that your child falls short in, and how the school wants to help find the accommodations for success. Yes, that is what I am “packing” for.
This is one of the most draining and adrenaline-building experiences I have had to endure in my years of parenting. There is no right way to prepare and no way to walk out feeling completely satisfied.
I do not always know or like the person who I become in preparation for these meetings or am at these meetings. It brings out a fire in me that I did not know I possessed.
I have created a list of the things I bring, some are not items you can hold physically, but you can mentally, and that may make all the difference. Here they are:
- Strength. I don’t mean the physical kind. I need the strength to bite my lip, squeeze my hand, and hold my breath. These are the things I do when I have to listen to the weaknesses and the goals not achieved. I know they exist, I wouldn’t be here if they didn’t, right? It never gets easier.
- Honesty. No one in that room knows my child as well as me. I will say all I can to be his voice and defend all I can. I will also challenge what needs to be.
- Perspective. Many in this room who are telling me what they think is best can benefit from some perspective to what I live every day. It really opens eyes and minds.
- Kindness. I will always start with kindness and the hope that we can all come together. I believe I am more clearly heard when we can talk WITH one another and not at.
- Humor. Yup. Because I need to laugh.
- Questions. Many of them. There is no wrong question. I need info.
- Hope. Because I need to have hope. I need to believe in the system and that we can come together for my child to succeed.
Then the items that are more tangible:
- Tissues. I do tend to cry. My sleeves have been known to look pretty gross after these meetings.
- Notes. Clear notes and examples of any and all situations needing to be discussed. You cannot be too prepared. Have a pen too!
- Gum or mints. I need to have a distraction.
And then, a tool I learned about that has made a big difference in our lives, our…
- Advocate. I like the security of an expert hired by us to protect our child and know the laws/our rights. I am not an expert at that and feel safer with this. These papers are grueling to understand and I know my weaknesses.
I never feel like I’m doing enough, I never think I know enough and I wonder always if it is the right thing.
I do believe that most teachers/educators want our children to succeed. I think the breakdown is so frequently the system. A system that has been created to fit into a square box. This box no longer can house so many of our kids and the teachers can try to be creative but the system won’t allow it. This has to change.
I won’t stop until it does. Our kids deserve that.
Here’s to our kids and the incredible voices we are!
Carissa Garabedian is the publisher of knowdifferent.net and mother to a special needs child in Richmond, Virginia. Carissa also publishes the award-winning Macaroni Kid of Richmond, VA.