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A Letter to My Son's IEP Team

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It has taken me over a month to be able to write this after my son’s last IEP meeting. I have done about 20 drafts. Our next meeting happens today and I am walking on eggshells. Why does it have to be like this? I have no real answer, but here’s a letter I wrote to our IEP team. Maybe I’ll bring it with me.

IEP Team,

As we get ready to walk into a room full of people who do not know our son and sit with all of the reports you have, please remember that he is so much more than what’s on that paper!

Remember that many of you spend an hour a day with him and that you use standards set for kids who do it “typically.”

We have all of the papers, graphs and assessments you sent us. We have looked them all over. We know, without even looking at them, that they will show all of his weaknesses. I know this is the way you do it, but imagine how much less anxious and more at ease an IEP meeting would feel if the focus was on what our child can do and the strengths our child does have?

When we meet today, here are some tips for you all to remember:

He is so much more than what’s on that paper.

Please listen to us. Trust that we know our child.

Please don’t tell us he does not qualify any longer for a particular service because he’s met his goal. He needs all he can to reach and exceed the goals we set for him, and taking services away is not the answer.

Please don’t refer to him as anything but a boy. He’s our son, not an object or statistic.

Please think before you speak. If what you are about to say is hurtful or patronizing, is there another way to say it? I’m pretty sure we all grew up being taught this as kids, so why should it go away as adults?

Please remember we are much happier when we feel you are in our corner. If we’re all supposed to be on the same team, play by the same rules.

Please know we’re not going to settle for an “appropriate” education. If this were your child, would that be enough for you? Be the one who steps out of the box!

Please don’t talk to the group like we’re not there. We are there, we hear you and we’ve even seen the smirks and eye rolls. This will not help us feel understood. It will only further separate us. 

Please show us you believe in our child and in us. Show us you believe in more than what the papers say! Be the school that stands out and apart for good reason when it comes to kids with special needs.

Please offer the ideas you all have to share and the ways the school can offer more. Yes, we have an advocate, but why does she have to be the one to remind you of the available tools and all the ways you can modify his schedule? Couldn’t you be the ones to initiate that?

Please know we do expect amazing things from our son. If you do, too, he will know that and work harder for you.

Please know that us working with you will be easier and better for everyone. This is not about us, it’s about him and we will never stop fighting for all he deserves.

He is so much more than what’s on that paper.

With hope,

Informed and Educated Parents

Follow this journey on Know Different.

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Originally published: September 3, 2015
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