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7. Decide who's coming with you -- IEPs tend to be extremely anxiety provoking for parents. When you are experiencing a lot of emotion it is unlikely that you will be able to absorb all information be given to you. Having someone else there who can listen to discussion & take notes will free you up to participate in discussion & focus on your own agenda.
8. What about taping meeting -- Recording IEP meetings can be a touchy issue for many school districts. However, if you cannot find anyone to come with you to meeting you may want to consider tape recording it so that you can refer back to discussion after you're home & calm. One caution, you will need to notify school that you would like to tape record meeting. Explain that it will be only for your reference & ask if there are any school guidelines or policies that you should be aware of regarding taping. Start this process as soon as you've been notified about meeting as some school districts have time guidelines that notice of recording must be given at least X amount of time before meeting.
9. Determine your child's participation - If you see a future of self-advocacy for your child, then it is important to involve them in IEPs as early as possible. This will let them watch your advocacy skills & learn by imitation. It also give you opportunity to get their input on what & how they would like to learn. If you aren't comfortable with your child attending meeting, then consider how their presence can be felt by proxy. Two ways recommended by other parents are:
A) Bring your child's picture & set it in center of table - this should effectively remind everyone at table that decisions made will impact life of a real person & shouldn't be arbitrary or for convenience sake.
B) Bring your child's portfolio -- originally developed to introduce new teachers to your child, portfolio illustrates all that is unique & special about your child. This is a wonderful way to remind participants that everyone has strengths & special qualities to bring to "table of life". Check out sample portfolio in our web resource section for ideas on how to do this.
10. Review your rights! -- Right before you attend a meeting filled with professionals is perfect time to read again how federal laws "see" your role as parent. It will reinforce your feeling of importance within team & also ensure that no one surprises you with any "questionable" tactics during meeting.
If you have completed all 10 steps you should be feeling pretty prepared. Now you can go into that conference room with confidence knowing that you are ultimate "expert" on your child!
Copyright 2000, Lisa Simmons
Lisa is director of the Ideal Lives Project, providing practical support for special needs families & professionals. Visit online at: http://www.ideallives.com or subscribe to her free newsletter at: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org