Maybe you’ve heard of the TV show, “Doomsday Preppers.” It’s about people preparing for the end of the world in some pretty interesting ways. Although I wouldn’t consider Eddie’s IEP anything close to a “doomsday” event, I’m learning it does take some preparation. This year, unlike years past, we decided to be IEP “Preppers” so we would know exactly what to expect and be ready for it.
First, we needed to gather our resources. We talked to family members, others we rely on, and outside therapists to get their opinions about what Eddie should be doing at school. Other parts of Eddie’s “team” were doing the same thing…seeking consultations with “experts” to help guide their goal writing and decision making.
Second, Eddie’s Dad and I sat down together and talked about what we’d like Eddie to be working on. What did we want for him ten years down the road? What does he need to be learning now to get there? What is fair to ask the school, and what should we be working on as his family? These were just a few of the many questions we thought about.
Third, we emailed all of the members of Eddie’s team and asked them some very specific questions. We asked who would be writing what types of goals? Who would be giving instruction on those same goals? How often would progress be checked? Most importantly…If Eddie met the goals, what is the next step? Simply put, why is he learning what he’s learning? What are you hoping for in the future?
By sending out that email a week in advance, we had a chance to collaborate with his teachers and therapists before the actual meeting. Legally, we all should know that the IEP meeting is considered a DRAFT of the plan until signed and agreed upon by all parties. As parents, we have every right to discuss and change goals along with the team during the meeting. However, our goal was to be prepared this year, and not feel obligated to make decisions at the table.
Fourth, we brought in snacks to lighten the mood, and to make sure we had time to talk if needed without starving teachers and tired parents. The most important reason for the snacks was to let Eddie’s team know we appreciate them. We may not always understand the educational programs, which is why we ask questions. That doesn’t mean we are dissatisfied…we just simply care about Eddie and the future being laid out before him.
Even becoming an IEP “Prepper” didn’t save our meeting from lasting almost two hours, but it sure made us feel better. Since we had contacted everyone before the meeting, we knew exactly what kind of goals we’d hear about, and little was left to speculation. I recommend every parent of a special needs child do a little prepping before their next IEP. They will not regret it.