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3 Reasons Why I Don't Go to IEP Meetings Alone

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IEP meetings can be emotional, rough, torturous, make you wanna eat five bags of chips and two gallons of ice cream when you get home. Did I mention they can be really hard? But you don’t have to go to them alone. I have been to a couple of meetings alone and I felt very frustrated and helpless. The first meeting that I invited someone to come with me, I could see a huge difference in the way the meeting was handled by school staff.

Not everyone feels they need an advocate or an IEP partner. That’s awesome! You are definitely one of the lucky ones if your child’s needs are being met at school or you feel you can handle IEP meetings on your own. But if you come out of a meeting feeling like you were hit by a truck, you may need to bring someone with you next time.

These are three reasons why I bring an advocate with me:

1.  Support.

We as parents deserve to be supported, just like our children deserve support. You get into this meeting and there is a whole table full of professionals, notepads in hand ready to discuss your child. That can be very intimidating. Especially if a meeting turns south (which lets face it,  can happen often and very quickly.) One extra person sitting on your side of the table can help you feel more comfortable. Having someone give you support during a meeting can help you ask some of the hard questions or talk about uncomfortable subjects.

2. Professionalism.

As I mentioned before, meetings seem to be handled in a more professional manner when there is an extra set of eyes and ears in the room. It shouldn’t be this way, but unfortunately, in many cases it is true. On the flip side, bringing someone with you can also help you to stay calmer and choose your words more carefully.

3. Understanding.

IEP meetings can be confusing. Especially if you don’t understand all of the lingo. As a parent, you can be stressed and emotional during these meetings as well, so it can sometimes be hard to follow. I always go in with a list of questions and things I want to discuss. But sometimes by the end of the meeting I am so flustered that I forgot to discuss half of the things that were on my list. That is when having a second person come with you fits in. They can ask any questions you forgot, and you have someone to discuss the meeting with after it is over. They may also pick up on things that you may have overlooked. Sometimes things can get said at a meeting that get slid into an IEP that you as a parent do not agree with. It’s always nice to have that back-up that can confirm things that were agreed upon or not agreed upon during the meeting.

I understand advocates can be hard to find and expensive. The first time I looked into getting an advocate I was shocked to learn the cost. After doing more digging, it is understandable why they get paid for the work they do. But not all of us can afford one. There are other resources if an advocate doesn’t fit into your budget. I am fortunate enough to have someone through my county’s community services program who works with my daughter to attend meetings with me. It is at no cost to me. If your child has a social worker or someone else through your county who works with them, I would recommend asking them. If they cannot attend, they may be able to point you in the right direction to someone who can. Another good resource is to ask other parents at your child’s school if they know of anyone. They may even be willing to attend a meeting with you. Another IEP parent is a great supportive resource. If you know of anyone who has knowledge of how the school system works, like a teacher, teacher’s aide or support staff, they would be a great person to ask. Honestly, having another person with you regardless of knowledge helps tremendously.

We are our children’s voice, but sometimes we need an extra voice. And that is OK. Remember that parents and guardians can invite anyone to an IEP meeting. If you need some support, don’t be afraid to seek it out and ask. We deserve support, too.

Getty image monkeybusinessimages

Originally published: March 14, 2018
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