Ask questions and check for understanding as often as you need to.
You can say “so it sounds like your saying that…” paraphrase back to them what you think you heard, and the team will either agree or correct you. This can stop miscommunications in its tracks before it takes on a life of its own.
Stop to Ask for interpretation of acronyms—Professionals use these terms so often they forget it’s a new language for the layperson. You’ll hear terms thrown around like FAPE, FERPA, LRE, IEE, FBA, PWN. See “Alphabet Soup.”
Be emotionally objective during the meeting. Being emotionally objective doesn’t mean you can’t be sad as you describe your child’s challenges, or disagree with someone’s suggestion. As parents, we often bring lot’s of emotions with us into that meeting room: we bring worry, fear, shock, anger, guilt, sadness. But if you can recognize this going in, you can transform the energy of your emotions into a positive search for information and solutions. Being emotionally objective doesn’t mean you can’t be sad as you describe your child’s challenges, or disagree with someone’s suggestion.
It does mean that:
- You attend the meeting intending to collaborate with the team
- You are prepared and informed
- You analyze problems
- You express yourself clearly
- You demonstrate self-confidence
- You are not intimidated
- You are positive and persistent
- You have pride
- You encourage others and hold people accountable
- You acknowledge the help others are giving your child
- You demonstrate your willingness to partner with the school
To elaborate, being “Emotionally Objective” means that you come into the meeting with the intention to collaborate with the team. Have an idea before you get to the meeting of what you might be willing to compromise on and what things you will hold your ground on because they are just too important for your child. Always keep in mind that meeting your child’s needs is the primary goal. The goal is not to win a power struggle with the team.
It’s easier to stay emotionally objective if you come prepared and informed, as I discussed in more detail in Part 1. If you are organized, then you will feel empowered and be more able to be objective.
During the meeting, you should have the information in front of you that you need to analyze problems.
During the meeting, it helps to use an agenda that you read off, to express yourself clearly and come across as self-confident. A sample agenda was included in part 1 of this presentation
Disagree clearly but respectfully, for example instead of “You have FAILED to perform any observation of my daughter before developing the IEP” you might instead say “I’m very concerned about the relevance of that IEP goal, because we have no objective data about her progress in that area.” Notice the use of the pronoun ‘WE”… we have no objective data.
Just as you’d like the education team to recognize your child’s strengths, not just his weaknesses, and incorporate that into a plan, as a parent, it helps to use the same strategy with the education team. “Ms. Smith’s extra help and attention that she gives to Jonny first thing in the morning, helping him organize his materials and previewing the day’s schedule with him, has worked wonders. He rarely forgets to turn in homework now, and tells me that he really likes working with Ms. Smith and would like that to continue.” Compliments and encouragement really do work, and at the same time it holds the education team accountable to continue employing the strategies that are effective for your child.
Demonstrate your willingness to partner with the school . “And I will help Jonny pack up his homework folder at night, and it would be useful if Ms. Smith and I could check in with eachother regularly about Jonny’s progress, maybe every other week, by phone or email, which ever she prefers.”