I have worked for North Shore Pediatric Therapy for more than two years in the marketing department. I thought I was familiar with the many challenges families go through with their children, however, the idea of going through “the IEP process” never crossed my mind, until I had to.
When my son started kindergarten, we had some concerns about certain behaviors, but honestly really thought they were only phases. A few weeks into the school year as they began practicing drills, he had a severe panic attack requiring help from the school social worker. At that time, his teacher recommended he begin seeing the social worker more frequently and that led to our process of seeking a full evaluation to really understand him.
He was evaluated by Dr. Greg Stasi at NSPT and given a diagnosis of Anxiety Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder. It was then that we were faced with the dreadful IEP meetings. I had heard so many stories of hardship parents faced when fighting for their child’s needs. As a result, I went into the process expecting a fight, and boy would they get one if necessary because in my mind, nothing was going to come between my child getting the help he needed.
Because of my job, I am fortunate enough to have access to excellent professionals and resources, who understand the IEP process, and who helped me prepare for the initial IEP meeting. I was ready for that day. And you know what happened? I didn’t have to fight. I was so fortunate to have a wonderful team wanting and willing to give my son everything he needed to succeed. Everything I was prepared to fight for was already part of their plan, too.
I know this isn’t typical, and so many families struggle to get their child’s needs met.
Here are some tips, from a mom’s perspective on how to approach IEP meetings to get what you, and your child, need:
- Be prepared. Those same resources I have access to because of my job…guess what? YOU have access to those same things! NSPT has so many blogs and infographics to help you begin your journey. Having a full neuropsych evaluation is a real plus as it lends a direction for goal development and is appreciated by the district staff.
- Be understanding. Understand that those on the other side of the table really do want to help. Often they are restricted by legal mandates. So you may find that there are questions you ask where they can’t fully answer.
- Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask any and all questions you have in order to understand each element being addressed. It goes fast. And they use a lot of terms you don’t recognize. Stop them and ask.
- Bring help. Don’t be afraid to bring outside support, such as a school advocate, to help speak on your behalf. They know the rules and can help you “fight.”
- Don’t sign the plan if you are not happy. You will be asked to sign the plan at the end. If you are not comfortable, don’t do it, unless it’s on the condition that you are requesting another meeting to go over the details again to re-write the goals.
- Hold Accountability. As the school year continues, don’t be afraid to check in on the team, the therapists, and the teacher to ensure all accommodations are being met.
Be the voice. Remember, you are your child’s voice. Don’t be afraid to speak up.
NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!