Note: More than 15 years ago I wrote a serious polemic titled, “Parents Get Your Act Together and Take It to School”. I wanted to outline ideas and examples so parents of children with disabilities could be active participants when planning their child's educational program. I told parents that the law guaranteed parents the right to advocate for specific programs, services, classrooms and technologies that will allow their child to benefit from his/her educational programs. Equal partnership was the overall theme.
Well, that was then and this is now, and not much has changed. So it’s time to update it, Mothers from Hell 2 style. I hope you enjoy it.
Preparing for an IEP Meeting
If you've been to an IEP (Individualized Educational Purgatory) meeting, you already know that your role is “just the mom and dad." This perception comes from the fact that every school bureaucrat is an expert about your child. They have reinforced your own insecurity as a parent and as a homo-sapien. You already know that they will call you by your first name or address you as "mom". Since you only their last name, you are reduced to calling them "Dr. Johnson", "Mr. Kingery" or the ever popular, "hey YOU!"
If all that is not intimidating enough, you have to listen to school staff talk about your child in terms that makes you think they are talking about a rock. But, we love our little rock stars, don't we? And, we want to protect them. So, we cry, we holler, we
curse, we throw things. But no more!
This article can help you stand up and get even. I will guide you through this minefield of special education advocacy and help you regain your sense of humor and ability to perform neurosurgery in your leisure hours. After applying the tactics you learn here, can rest in the knowledge that you've made someone else's life hell on earth. And, after all, isn't that what IEP meetings are all about?
Preparation is the key to success. Follow these simple guides and I assure you that your child's IEP will never be the same.
Keep good notes all year long. When you see a school official outside of school, stalk him. Make notes of his coming and going. Did he walk into the Blockbuster next to the naughty device store? Good enough! Take a picture at just the right
angle…… and well, you know. Did you notice the school psychologist crossing a picket line? Click the shutter. Teamsters smack their lips at that sort of information.
Hang out at the local biker's bar. Find the guy named Bear. Invite him to attend the meeting with you. Urge him to wear his sleeveless shirt and denim vest that reveal his substantial muscles and tattoos. Tell him he doesn't have to talk much, just sit
near the door with his arms folded.
Request the meeting be held on neutral turf…… your neighbor's hot tub, your nudist club campgrounds or favorite bowling alley. Where ever it is, make sure the tables and chairs are as ill-fitted as the furniture they make you sit around when you visit
Write the district. Ask for a postponement until you are confirmed as Supreme Court Justice. Make sure to copy the speaker of the house and senate majority leader in the letter.
Visit your child's school. Pay particular attention how the teacher teaches. Suggest, in front of the children better methodology for delivering the lesson (Don't you think the children will remember that better if you wear Groucho glasses and carry a big fat cigar?) Then don't fall over laughing; you'll have to process the claims form.
Review your child's school records before the IEP meeting.
- You have the right to have a qualified person explain the material in the records. Tell them that Jack Nicholson meets all your qualifications.
- You have the right to challenge the contents of the records. Challenge the largest-oldest team member to a footrace. Winner gets to decide what goes in the official record. Start running sprints NOW, every morning, before the kids wake up.
- You also have the right to insert a written statement about the contents of the files. Consider something like…… "I had hopedto avoid having the man-boob lecture with my son until he was out of grade school."
Practice writing goals. For example, you can write a goal for the supervisor of program, "The Supervisor will be able to smile earnestly when she says, "I adore being middle management, "after being passed over for a promotion with 80% believability. Or a goal for the speech therapist might look like this: "Ms. Chatter will refrain from using the word "we" (as in…… Are WE having a bad day?) when asking a question 100% of the time." Ask the team to incorporate the goals into their own permanent personnel record.
Study your rights. Contact your lawyer and have him explain the stalking, slander and libel laws in your state. It's a barrel of monkeys to walk on the edge of the legal line, safe in the knowledge no one can touch you.
Know what you want. An IRS audit for your least favorite bureaucrat? Voodoo lessons? More Valium? Some parents know
they are unhappy but cannot give one constructive suggestion to make their child's education program better. Look at your situation. What do you need to get you what you want? If you don't know what you want, how will you ever know when you get
Find out exactly where your meeting will be. A half-hour before the meeting begins, have four secret service looking types, donning sunglasses, standing feet apart, arms folded in front of them, on each corner of the block around the school. Instruct
them to talk into their wrists from time to time. Ask them to stay until they are sure the meeting has started.
Practice using the language in our study materials. Words like a "free appropriate public education" or "FAPE", can strike fear in even the most seasoned educator. Include the language when you speak: "Wow, those stairs are steep……
must be out of FAPE."
Ask who will be at the meeting. You can invite others if you wish. Recruit someone to go to the meeting with you. This is where "Bear," mentioned earlier, comes into the equation. Invite as many as you wish. It's always nice to have at least as many
people present as the school district.
Pick a primary spokesperson, if both parents attend the meeting. It's usually nice to pick the person who does not fall into profanity at the site of a school administrator. Save that parent for later on, when those much needed services start to swirl, just
before they are flushed down the toilet. Then, remove the spike collar and let him/her go.
Get your hands on a copy of, "10 ways to have more fun at an IEP meeting” for additional suggestions.
Once you've done your homework you are prepared to attend an IEP or any other meeting.