It is IEP season. And for those of us with children with additional needs this is a very stressful time. It feels to some of you that it’s time to “fight” for what your child needs.
I would like to share my point of view because I was recently asked to meet with relatively new parents to the process. These were additional needs parents stressed in anticipation of what to expect. My advice is: you are not fighting, you are advocating. There is a difference.
Fighting is coming from a perspective of lack of knowledge and more defense. Advocating however, means you are educating yourself and backing up your argument and standing your ground because you are aware. There’s much more power in that. I happen to live in Collier County which has a school district that contracts with an advocate to help parents know their legal rights.
This advocate’s name is Wilbur Hawke, many call him an angel. He has educated me and entrained me to understand that when entering into the IEP process as much as it is personal for us as parents, it is all about business for the school and district. If we remember that, it takes the “fight” away. Often times as parents we think that the school or district should see our child for who they are. But if we don’t provide the documentation, they can’t.
The other most important factor I find in any IEP meeting, is kindness. Do not underestimate kindness. The school district is made up of people who are actually invested and wanting to do right by your child. They have a job, and it is their job to represent the district or the school. We need to remember as parents not to take their remarks of our children personally. I am not saying that their remarks may not get under our skin, irritate us, or create undo stress. I am saying, that we need to take responsibility for our emotions and remain professional in our meetings.
How we represent ourselves as parents may directly impact how our children are going to be treated. We want that to be well. And for the relatively new parents coming into school systems recognize that her child is new to them. It takes time to develop any relationship. Although you want them to see your child as you do, it is the example of how you hold yourself and how you educate the school or district about your child that will make the impact your desire. Lastly, new parent or not, always ask. Ask anyone and everyone about their points of view regarding any questions you have.
Everyone has an opinion. And when they share that opinion, take the annotations and mindset in stride. You don’t have to agree with them. But it may actually open up thought processes or possibilities that you may not have considered had you not asked. Don’t limit yourself and therefore don’t limit your child! Cynthia Sharpe Additional Needs, Inc. Cynthia’s Center is coming to ANI this June!