By Kodey Toney
Get Back To Where You Once Belonged
I’d like to get back into the discussion of Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings this week. I think an important aspect of getting what you need, want, and are entitled to in an IEP meeting is the way you communicate with those in the meeting and on the team. This week I want to look at some ways to communicate without completely alienating everyone in the room. Hopefully these tips will help others understand that you know what you’re talking about, and that you mean business, but are there to work with them to get what is best for the child involved.
Much of what I’m going to discuss comes from the Oklahoma Parents Center’s IEP training power point. There is a section on developing assertive communication skills that I will borrow from.
The first tip is to make sure that you say what you wanted to say in the meeting. This doesn’t mean that you have to be aggressive or loud to get your point across. You just want to make sure that your ideas and points are heard by all involved. A good way to make sure of this is to make notes ahead of time. Jen and I always make a game plan the night before. This includes making sure what the goals are that you are asking for ahead of time. You want to make sure that they are reasonable and within your rights. You also need to know what your rights are, so you need to get your laws and regulations together if you’re worried about this aspect.
While you’re in the meeting make sure that you are direct. Sometimes people don’t say exactly what they mean because they are afraid of hurting someone’s feelings or offending someone. It’s best if you just come out and say what you need to say. Be tactful of course, but get your point across.
Make sure that you stand up for your rights. One of the things that most parents are afraid of is that schools will run over them, and given a chance they do sometimes. The problem is that most schools have a tight budget. They don’t want to spend any more money than they have to, but you have to think about the child first and the budget second. This is why it’s important to know your rights. You can go to the Oklahoma Department of Education website and find the Special Education Handbook. This gives you just about everything you need as far as regulations go. You can also find information at www.wrightslaw.com. I always say that there’s nothing a school fears more than an educated parent. This doesn’t have to do with diplomas and degrees. It means that you know your rights and stand up for them.
Make sure that your body language is consistent with what you are trying to convey. If your mouth says something and your facial expression says something different nobody will take you serious. It can also contradict your intentions. Be very careful.
Make sure that your voice is strong and direct. This, again, doesn’t mean to yell, but timid is also not good. You have to find a balance and make sure that they understand what you are asking for and why.
Make sure that you feel good afterward. There is nothing worse than leaving an IEP meeting thinking that things didn’t go as planned. If you walk out with the feeling of anger, aggravation, or despair you didn’t do what you came to do. This doesn’t mean a feeling of winning. As I’ve said before, it’s not about winning or losing. It’s about doing what is best for the student. You want to make sure that you got what was necessary to help the child accomplish their goals and succeed in life.