Tag Archives: school

Three Strategies for a Smooth IEP Meeting

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“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” (Matthew 7:7 NRS)

Now that school is well-underway, some of us are in the midst of follow up IEP meetings (Individualized Education Program) to adjust education plans. A new school year may mean it’s time to update goals now that your child is established in a routine. One of the most frequent prayer requests I get is for IEP meetings.  How can parents reduce the anxiety level when everyone sits down around that table?

  1. Know your rights. Being informed helps instill a sense of preparation. Check out wrightslaw.com for information about special education rights.  In particular, their IEP basics tab here is a good place to start.
  2. Understand your own goals. What are your expectations? Are they reasonable? How will you be part of the process? Looking back at my own IEP meetings in early elementary school, I think I had in the back of my mind that the school’s interventions would somehow make up all of the deficits in my child’s development.  I think that came, in part, from the term “developmental delay.” It left me with the expectation that someday he would catch up all the way across the board. That unreasonable expectation added to my sense of anxiety when that goal remained unachievable year after year.
  3. Bring grace to the process, and maybe a few goodies. Teachers and administrators often end up with IEPs scheduled over break time. Light refreshments are often a welcome addition and set a good tone for the meeting. A positive attitude goes a really long way in smoothing out communication. It is possible to advocate by way of appreciation rather than anger. That philosophy worked well for me. Every six-week grading period I dropped off a note or small treat to each person who worked with my child letting them know how much I appreciated their efforts.

It’s great knowing that our children go to school and are taught by people who have chosen the profession of teaching. They have gifts and talents for what they do and they genuinely care about young people or they would have chosen another profession. They are experts in what they do, and the IEP helps them learn to be an expert in our children’s unique requirements. Sometimes neither side of the table is exactly sure what is needed for a particular child, especially at first. Parent and staff alike can be on a steep learning curve in discerning the best way to help each child with their education goals. Understanding that education is a team effort with many players goes a long way in creating the right plan.

God of Peace, help there to be peace throughout the IEP process. Calm the fears of parents, reduce the anxiety of teachers and administrators. Let your glory and gifts shine through in the process of helping to equip children to grow to be the best prepared and most content versions of themselves.  Place love of children at the center of the hopes and plans of all who gather around the IEP table. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

 

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Just One Friend Part 2

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Some friends play at friendship but a true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin. (Proverbs 18:24 NRSV)

Everyone wants and needs relationships. We are hard-wired for it. One of the biggest hurts I have felt as a parent is wanting my child to feel accepted and connected to others. In the support groups I lead it is a common issue that resurfaces again and again. I talk to parents about nurturing the relationships they do have and they switch to talking about relationships their children don’t have. I have been mulling around an idea that has not really taken shape yet, but it goes something like this. Wouldn’t it be great if churches could host a “Just One Friend” night. Invite the special needs community and anyone else who is looking for friendships. Set up games and activities. Parents stay and help foster connections. This in’t a respite night. It’s a relationship building night. Kids build relationships with kids.  Parents build relationships with each other. The general premise is that folks are coming to have fun and meet new people that they may want to connect with after game night is over. That’s kind of a bare bones snap shot, but I think it could be a way churches could offer important relief from isolation, which is a big part of healing on the journey with special needs.

Here are a couple of practical strategies I used for nurturing friendships when my son was younger. I recognize that this is not a universal list for all the various differences amongst our children. Hopefully it will at least provide some fertile ground for other ideas to spring up as well:

  • Remind your child that everyone will be looking to meet new people. They are not alone in that feeling of being in a class with new people.
  • Have your child talk to kids who are friendly and suggest they ask them questions. Kids love to talk about what they did over the summer. Be an interested listener.
  • Have them look for others who look lonely and talk to them. My son can spot a kid on autism spectrum in heartbeat. Like matches with like sometimes.  They get him in a way others don’t.
  • Have them make friends with grownups at school. The cafeteria monitor can be a great ally in finding friends and avoiding bullying.
  • Dress like everyone else. This sounds basic, but it is amazing what an impact it can have if a child is “over-dressed” for school, especially boys. If they look like they came from a fashion shoot for children’s resort wear change their clothes!
  • If you feed them they will come. If Craig had a friend over in elementary school (not an everyday occurrence!) I’d ask his guest what was his or her favorite cookie and then bake them while the kids played. Over the years Craig’s friends started calling our house Craig’s Pub. As teens, I started calling them the herd that comes to graze. BTW – 5 grazers coming for a half day video game birthday bonanza this weekend. (Number of gamers times number of pizza slices I think they want plus an extra two per person because they are boys divided by the number of slices in a large pizza…) Prayers appreciated that I don’t get trampled in the kitchen!
  • In keeping with the above strategy, drop by once or twice a month to the school cafeteria with a couple of pizzas or one of those giant cookie cakes. Some folks grab a slice and run. Others grab a slice and stay.
  • If you typically pack a treat in your child’s lunch, pack two so that they have an extra to share.
  • Invite others. Waiting around for a playdate invitation that doesn’t come feels lousy. Make the effort to extend yourself. Sometimes there will be rejection, but other times you get a winner.
  • Be intentional about fostering relationships. Even small acts of kindness are nurturing.

What are some friendship strategies that have worked in your household? Please comment and share ideas.  You never know what may help another parent spark a friendship.

Prayer: Loving God, We are wonderfully made to be in connection with others.  Please help those connections to grow among our children. Calm nervous feelings about meeting new people and open pathways for meaningful relationships to flourish. Amen.

Photo: “Calahan Colorado High School Cafeteria” by David Shankbone

Just One Friend Part 1

Calhan_Colorado_High_School_Cafeteria_by_David_Shankbone

Some friends play at friendship but a true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin. (Proverbs 18:24 NRSV)

Didn’t summer just start last week or the week before?  Yet there they are. Ads in the paper for back-to-school supplies. My Facebook feed is full of friends caught up in back-to-school preparations. Friends who are teachers are posting pics as they fit in one more vacation before the new school year.

As a special needs parent, back-to-school comes with an oddly mixed sensation of anxiety and hope. I am always hopeful for a new year and new possibilities.  It’s the “what if” gremlins that make me anxious. With a little experience I finally figured out the first day of school routine.  I pray my son out the door with a positive, “God’s got you, so you’ve got this!” and keep the anxiety part to myself as I sit by the phone and wait for the call from the school office.  Autism and the first day of school. The call was inevitable at my house. I learned just to go with it.

My biggest prayer for my son each year is to make one friend. Just one. One good friend will see you through anything. Barnabas traveled with Paul on long and dangerous journeys to share the gospel.  Moses had Aaron on his journey to and from Egypt. David had Jonathan through battles and political intrigue. Of course my dreams were more sedate. I simply prayed for a person to sit with my son in the cafeteria and maybe hangout to build Lego castles and help save the world in the latest video saga. 

Looking back over the years that prayer has been answered each year. Some of those kids my son connected with in elementary school are still friends after high school. Some are neuro-typical.  Others are not. In the long run those differences matter little between real friends. The truth is that sometimes friendships bloom out of the most unlikely connections if well-nurtured, though I did give Craig one piece of advice that really helped.  Look for the kid who is by himself at lunch and go join him.  I bet he would like to have just one friend too.

Check back tomorrow for my post with practical strategies for helping our kids make friends.

Prayer: Loving God, Watch over our children as they look for friends.  Create pathways for connections where they feel loved and accepted.  Amen.

Photo: “Calahan Colorado High School Cafeteria” by David Shankbone