“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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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