“I just love attending my child’s IEP meetings!” said no Mama EVER! IEP meetings can be down right stressful. It’s like getting called into the principal’s office and you’ve done nothing wrong. I’m not sure which is worse; Preparing for them or actually attending them. Whether it’s your first IEP meeting or your 4th or 5th, IEP meetings cause anxiety for most Mamas for a variety of reasons.
What is an IEP?
An IEP is called an Individual Education Plan. Once your child qualifies for the IEP, there will be an annual meeting between parents, and other school administration to discuss your child’s academic progress and needs. If your child has Autism, odds are, your child has an IEP. (Although there MUST be an academic need.)
This Administration team consists of:
-Your child’s teacher
-Principal (Early Childhood)
-Special Education Director
Before the first meeting, your child will be evaluated by the administration team. They use a number of tests including an IQ test (I really hate these tests by the way) to evaluate your child. If it is determined that your child qualifies, then you and the administration team will develop a specific education plan tailored just for your child that will help him/her throughout their academic year. This plan will be updated/revised annually and every three years your child will be reevaluated to see if they still require an IEP.
Sounds good right? So why does the IEP meeting stress Mamas out?
There are many reasons why, but it all boils down to fear & anxiety. Fear & anxiety of the unknown to be exact. You have no idea what’s going to be said about your child & you wonder if you are being judged. You discuss EVERYTHING including your child’s history and you’re once again reminded that your child has challenges that you wish they didn’t have. (Cue Anxiety, Worry, Fear, etc…)
Tips to help make the IEP meeting less scary
- If you haven’t given the administration team your child’s paperwork from their child psychologist or child neurologist (This is assuming you got a medical diagnosis and I HOPE YOU DID!) bring this proof with you. Some Autistic kiddos aren’t as academically affected by their Autism as others and administration may try and question their eligibility.
- If you can’t attend the IEP physically, ask to be conferenced in via telephone. If you can’t attend even by phone reschedule the meeting. You need to be a part of this meeting! DON’T just let the administration team come up with your child’s plan on their own.
- Posture yourself when going into your meeting. Even though you may nervous, your body language doesn’t need to give that away.
- Be open-minded. Remember, you know your child in a way that their teacher does not BUT don’t forget that their teacher knows your child in a way that you don’t at the same time.
- If you don’t agree with something in the plan, communicate this & DON’T sign anything. There is nothing wrong with letting administration know that you disagree with them. This is a team collaboration and you are a part of that team.
- Remember, The IQ test does NOT determine how successful/independent your child will be.
- I can’t stress this enough, Try & LEAVE YOUR EMOTIONS AT THE DOOR. This is business! Your child’s academic business! Bring your “A” game NOT your attitude. Don’t be so anxious that you come in defensive and objectional to everything. Maybe meditate before the meeting.
- Bring an advocate that knows the laws if you can.
- DON’T bring an entourage of family members like you’re preparing for war. This makes the IEP meeting environment emotional. (please re-read #4)
- Remember, this is YOUR meeting about YOUR child. You run the show!
- Last but certainly not least, Do NOT take anything said or suggested to you personally. What your child is or isn’t doing at this time is not a reflection on you as a parent. Our children need extra support and that’s ok.
Uneasy feelings before your child’s IEP meeting is normal. Don’t forget they are YOU & YOUR CHILD’S meeting. There’s no reason to feel pressure from the people that are involved. They are there for you! It’s YOUR time to express your concerns, learn new information about your child, and come up with the best plan moving forward. Work with the IEP team, not against them. It’s ok to ask questions and challenge things, but also be open minded to new suggestions.