The worst IEP advice: “Make sure you cry at the IEP meeting. It shows how passionate you are about your child!”
We still cringe when we hear that. Tell me who feels confident when they are crying? No one feels good when they are crying – you feel exposed and vulnerable. And you have shown school people that you are vulnerable, and maybe “too emotional.” Treat an IEP meeting like a business meeting. Would you cry at a business meeting? There is a time and place to mourn our kids’ losses and struggles, but the IEP meeting is not the time or place.
1. Get a doctor’s note! This is one we see often, especially when parents are seeking a 1:1 aide for their child. There are many reasons why this advice does not work out of context. First, it matters if the doctor is writing a note for something like Type 1 Diabetes or food allergies that require accommodations. A doctor’s note won’t help with providing a specific type of specialized instruction like ABA.
2. Sue the school! It doesn’t really work that way. IDEA gave us a Due Process framework that is flawed, but it is what we have. You generally cannot just sue your school district. You have to use the process – disagree with the IEP, and then choose due process and so on. If you choose to go straight to a lawsuit, the chances are very good that it will be dismissed because you didn’t go through due process. You cannot sue specific people in a school setting because your child is not making progress. There are specific legal remedies that can address your child’s educationally related concerns.
3. Call the school board! We can tell you that school board members would pretty much rather do anything than get involved in an IEP dispute, and they really can’t. They are not a member of your child’s IEP team, nor are most school boards involved in the day to day management of a school district. Now, if you are filing state complaints for either compliance or professional conduct, then include the school board on your correspondence. You and other parents with common concerns can ask to be put on a school board meeting agenda, and allowed to speak at a school board meeting.
4. Call the media! Um, no. Our kids are the last marginalized population of people on the planet. It is unfortunate, but not everyone sees things the way we do. It can backfire on you! There are still lots of people who do not “believe in” ADHD and think it is poor parenting, or that the kid with autism just needs to pay attention. Many people think that our kids are a financial drain on the system, and the reason that their school isn’t doing better overall. “Those damned special needs kids….” still gets tossed around. A lot. Tread very carefully – you have been warned!
5. You are your child’s best advocate, you don’t need one. We agree that no one knows a kid like his parents do, and you probably are his best advocate in life. But, that doesn’t mean that you know all the ins and outs of special education or the IEP process. Remember, we don’t know what we don’t know.
6. Take them donuts! We hate this one. It’s not a continental breakfast; it’s a business meeting. Are they bringing gifts for you? Then why are you bringing gifts for them? Save gift giving for the holidays and Teacher Appreciation Week.