Some things I learned over the years, you get more bees with honey than with vinegar.  So we brought food to the IEP meetings! If it was an afternoon meeting, we brought cookies–and if I was home, I baked them right before the meeting–they smelled great and were still warm.  For morning meetings, we brought bagels and cream cheese. 

Other things we did to help the meetings go quickly were to request any assessments and their Proposed IEP goals in advance of the meeting.  I would request to receive them 7 days in advance, but many times didn’t get them until 3 days before.  The nice thing was reading them in the privacy of our home, and not being horrified or bursting into tears in front of the school staff.  We were also able to respond with changes to the IEP Goals in advance of the meeting, so we weren’t bogged down with writing them and making changes at the meeting.

IT is critical that any paraprofessionals attend the meeting.  They implement so much of the behavior plans and IEP goals, when they are left out of the planning you lose their input and they don’t understand why there may be a change in procedures.  Also, make sure they get a copy of the IEP, if they don’t know the goals, then they can’t be a very big help in achieving them.

Focus on Strengths, not Weaknesses.  Sean still has horrible fine motor skills.  We could have focused on writing to the detriment of reading.  Finally assistive technology of typing and tablets are here, and if Sean had an IPAD when he was in school he would have been jettisoned ahead of the game!

Tape record every IEP.  If the district expects this is your common practice then nobody feels like it is a negative.  I wish we had recorded from day one, then when we were in high school and things were not going well it would have just been the status quo.  You do have to notify them every time in writing 24 hours in advance and they too will tape record the meeting. 

Bring extra people with you! An extra set of ears may hear something that you miss.  Somebody who isn’t as emotionally involved can take notes for you.  Husbands and wives, be on the same page and don’t let the school personal find where you have a difference of opinion–they will seek to play those differences against you in the process.

Don’t sign the IEP at the meeting.  After reviewing Sean’s IEPs while writing this book, I saw notes in the notes section of the IEP that I never knew was there.  After a meeting I was usually too exhausted to look at the document so I filed it.  I saw a note in a high school IEP that said they offered an after school aide to Sean for an extracurricular activity! They did not verbally offer that, and had I read the notes I would have insisted on that aide so Sean could have participated in drama rehearsals.  Don’t make the same mistakes I did.

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