Finding Ninee » Sharing our parenting and special needs stories with heart and humor.

IEP Meetings Suck, and How to Prepare for an IEP

When special needs lurks in the shadows of your life, at first, quietly, and then, more forcefully, knock-knock-knocking on your door, you want to slam the front door in his face, and run quickly downstairs to lock the back door before that wily, tenacious asshole figures out his next entry point. You double-bolt the windows. Pull the shades, and huddle, terrified, under a blanket in the corner of the room, praying that he doesn’t find you.

That he moves on to another family. Any family, really. Just not yours. Just not your baby.

It’s human nature – Mother Nature, if you will – to not want to face the terrifying truth that special needs, autism, and life challenges are already in your home. In your life. In your child. They are there, long before you hear and fear the knock at the door.

At some point, you realize that it’s time to at least wonder why he’s knocking at your door. Wonder whether he has something meaningful and important to say. You have to poke the sleeping beast that is your too-overwhelming pile of options, and start speaking with the experts. Those who have seen the same things you’re seeing, before. Often, even. Those whose training helps them to know what, if anything, your unexpected guest is trying to tell you, in a way that your background, and Mama-heart does not want to hear.

Because this shit is the shit that no mama wants to hear.

Two years ago this spring is when I invited Tucker’s first special needs teacher into my home, willingly. I even offered her coffee. I cleaned, in anticipation of the visit, made sure Tucker had enough sleep the evening before (so that he’d be on his best behavior, unlike the day he had his Early Intervention evaluation when even I could see that he was possibly acting, um, weird). I wore something other than my favorite stained sweat shorts with a forever un-mended hole in the crotch. I had respect. And I wanted answers, opinions, and help.

I really needed help.

That day, two of the most amazing women I’ve known came into my home. These two women have dedicated a good chunk of their lives to special needs education, evaluations of not-yet-three-year-olds, and to making moms like me feel like everything just might possibly maybe be okay. Even with special needs. Right here. In my home. In my son.

It was due to their recommendation that Tucker began preschool at barely-aged-three in a Preschool Autism Classroom (PAC). It was also when I found support, moms with similar fears, doubts, denials, hopes, and understanding. Through this, I have found Moms Who Understand.  People. People who accept my little boy just the way he is. Who do not focus on the fact that he’s struggling with pronouncing his name, and, instead, focus on the fact that he’s fun. Adorable.

Uniquely himself.

A few months ago, Tucker transitioned into a Less Restrictive Environment (very common term in Special Education) and has found yet another loving, supportive, amazing group of teachers to help guide him, teach him his ABC’s, and listen to me about what I think his current biggest challenges and needs are.

I’ve been lucky to have a team who listens to me. I know that’s not always the case, so I’ll take a moment to thank them, in the chance that they stumble here by accident or on purpose. Thank you, Tucker’s teachers and IA’s and therapists. You know who you are. Thank you.

Tucker will be five this summer (sidenote? Listen to your Grandma when she says that time flies by more quickly by the year. She was right.).  Because of his age, he’ll be transitioning to kindergarten next year. And this week, we had his transitional IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting.

While preparing for it, I realized how full of anxious, wake-you-up-at-3:00 am-thoughts I was. Now that it’s behind me, I have to wonder a bit at why these meetings are so stressful and scary.

In concept, an IEP meeting is a good thing. It’s a chance for parents, teachers, and therapists to sit around a table, in chairs of equal height, and determine the next year’s goals. Sounds good, right? So why is it not, and why does almost every parent I know dread them so? I’ve been thinking about this a lot and reached out to some of my PAC mom friends to ask them what they think. Based on my 3:00 am thoughts, and their input, the below is what I have come up with.

IEP Meetings SUCK (3)

Why IEP Meetings Suck

    1. They’re intimidating. In addition to my husband Robert and me, there were seven other people at ours this week. Seven! For a total of nine! Seriously. That’s intimidating, no matter how nice everybody is.
    2. We heard the word “disability.” A lot. While my mind knows that my son’s learning delay (and delay is so much kinder sounding than disability, isn’t it?) is significant, and is what qualifies us for an IEP in the first place, the word fills my heart with hurt, pain, and doubt about his future. When I look at Tucker, or think of him, I see only silly grins, potential, the love of my life, and ability. I see ability to change the world. To be the world, to even more people than just me.
      Tucker Grin
    3. An IEP, by nature, is designed to focus on all the stuff that our kids aren’t doing, and should be, based on typical milestones. It’s really easy to resent that somebody created milestones and also to not focus on them.  

Because IEP meetings suck, it’s best to be prepared for them. To walk into the room, knowing what you’re getting into. Again, some of my PAC mama friends have helped me to come up with the below.

How to Prepare for an IEP Meeting

  1. Know your rights. Because you have them. You have a lot of them.
  2. Try to establish a good relationship with your child’s teacher. It will go a long way. Tucker’s teachers have been lifesavers for me.
  3. Ask questions. As many as you want. Over and over and over again, if you need to. For as long as you need to.
  4. Bring your child’s photo to the meeting. Make those who do not know him realize that he’s an adorable, amazing person (I have not actually done this and it was a suggestion by one of the moms I’m friends with who is a special ed teacher, speech expert, and has a step-son with Asperger’s). I think it’s an awesome idea.
  5. Bring somebody with you. A therapist, an advocate, a friend, or your mommy. It’s good to have somebody there to squeeze your hand if you need her to.
  6. You are the boss. The Big, Big, Biggest, Most Important, Most The-Decision-Stops-Here Boss of all.
  7. If you don’t agree with the IEP, don’t sign anything. You’re allowed to hold further meetings, talk with doctors, your mom, and the neighbor, if she’s willing to listen. You’re allowed to wait. To cry. And to wait some more. You’re the bigboss.

I have absolutely no interest in attending another IEP meeting anytime soon. But will, if it comes up before I’m expecting it to. Because my little boy? He deserves every opportunity at success that every other person before and after him does. That all of us do. 

The bottom line about IEPs and special needs is this: Every single one of us, those of us who don’t have to advocate at all, advocate for our child(ren) during nine-person meetings, at the playground, and, sometimes, within our families, see nothing more in our child than our child. You and me, mama, are more alike than different.

We are simply here, doing the best, and occasionally less-than our bests, for our little humans. And they, whether special needs is – or is not (because it doesn’t matter for this point) knocking at your heart, or already taken up the dusty spare bedroom – and all of the rooms – in your house, are our little humans.

Full of laughter.

Glee. Tears. Annoying moments.

Poop. Hope.

Most of all, hope. So I hope that the next time one of you needs to go to an IEP, that you’ll remember this: You Are The. Boss. The Hope. And your son? Daughter? The hope and the future and the everything.

All the everythings.

Tucker Smile May 2014

This has been a (really long) Finish the Sentence Friday post. Today’s sentence was brought to you by Kelly of Just Typikel. Go thank her for her contribution that I had nothing to write about until well, I did.

The sentence is “I have absolutely no interest in…”

Your hosts:

Janine: Janine’s Confessions of a Mommyaholic
Kate: Can I get another bottle of whine?
Stephanie: Mommy, for RealMe
Finding Ninee

  • Mytwicebakedpotato - You are so right! They are not fun!! I love the photo idea because it is hard to have so many people, so much time, so much energy focused on all the numbers and data of bad stuff.
    Yes! It is great to have a good relationship with the IEP team, but if things go south quickly…advocate!!! Research and find experts to help 🙂
    Our IEP meetings were always ok until we challenged their decisions and then we became “those” parents. That’s okMay 1, 2014 – 10:17 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I love the photo idea, too, My TBP, and wish I’d thought of it before. I’ll always remember it now though!
      It’s okay to be “those” parents. Your son is more important and YOU know best!May 2, 2014 – 6:22 pmReplyCancel

  • Janine Huldie - I have been in my far share of IEP meetings, but as the teacher not the parent. And honestly, you said a mouthful here and loved the advice you gave. Bottom line, I agree with you 110%, especially about not signing anything that you don’t agree with or think is in the best interest of your own child. Hugs though Kristi and I do very much remember how hard it was to sit through those meetings and like I said I was the concerned teacher, but still many times my heart broke for the parents and the child involved.May 1, 2014 – 10:20 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Thanks Janine! I always like the perspectives of teachers and the reinforcement that it’s okay to disagree with initial proposals and all of that. We got a LOT more hours of support when I explained that there was no way Tucker could do music class without it. And I appreciate your sweet comment! And YOU!May 2, 2014 – 6:45 pmReplyCancel

  • Sarah Almond - I would rather hot glue a rabid squirrel to my armpit than sit through another IEP meeting. Ok they’re not THAT bad, but they are so freaking intimidating! Thank you for this post, Kristi! So TRUE!May 1, 2014 – 10:22 pmReplyCancel

  • Allie - Oh Kristi, I’m not really interested in going to another IEP either. I’ve had some doozies…(and to be a fare, I’ve had some good ones, too). I don’t think I’ve ever made it through one with out crying, good and/or bad tears. Remind me to tell you about the one that had people chasing me out to the parking lot!May 1, 2014 – 10:26 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Allie! I can’t wait to hear abut the one that had people chasing you out to the parking lot! That must have been a big doozie!!!May 2, 2014 – 6:52 pmReplyCancel

  • Angel The Alien - As someone who works in special education, I’m glad you’re reminding parents that they are the ones in charge. There are a lot of strong personalities working in special ed, and sometimes people like to believe that they know what is best for your child, because they have the most years of experience or the most letters after their name. But it is YOUR kid they’re talking about and YOU know him best, and you have every right to put your foot down about things that are important to you.May 1, 2014 – 10:56 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Angel,
      Thanks so much for the awesome comment and reminder that it’s MY KID and that I know him best. So right.May 2, 2014 – 7:49 pmReplyCancel

  • Kelly L McKenzie - As I was reading this I kept thinking about how it also relates to someone who has a loved one in hospital. It is so easy to be intimidated by the environment, the docs, the nurses … by everyone who seems to have knowledge you don’t. It is so important for you to ask questions, speak up, have the “professionals” see your loved one – their patient – as a person. Whenever my late husband was in hospital the first thing we did was plaster his walls with pictures of his family. Our dog, our kids, me, his mom, and most importantly him doing healthy, happy, normal stuff. It made him a person. It made him real.
    I shall never forget being pulled into a quiet room “for a little chat” by a locum. That was not what I needed and I spoke up and said what I needed. Things moved quicker than quick after that. Good on you Kristi for getting the word out in your world. Should I ever need to go through such a time again (please no) I’d blog the hell out of it.May 1, 2014 – 11:07 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Kelly,
      I didn’t think about it like that but you’re right. Now, I wish I’d done the whole post more generic, for always asking questions, remembering that the people “in charge” are just people, with egos, insecurities, and all the rest. I’m glad that you had the bravery to say hat you needed when your late husband was in the hospital, and I LOVE that you had so many photos of your family on his walls. Brilliant, important, and full of love.
      Also here’s to you NEVER going through it again.May 2, 2014 – 7:51 pmReplyCancel

  • Misty - there should be a pamphlet entitled, learn to love ARC meetings, and it should be mandatory to give it to all parents on their first of many many many ARC meetings! i have to say, now that Patty is in first grade, and i see most of the ARC team on a regular basis, it’s a lot less intimidating!May 2, 2014 – 6:52 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - There should be a pamphlet! And um, (scuffs toe in dirt) is an ARC the same as an IEP? I’m glad to hear that it gets less intimidating, though, Misty, so thank you for that! I’m loving your new website by the way!May 2, 2014 – 7:59 pmReplyCancel

      • Misty - yep, IEP is the document, ARC is the meeting. i had to look it up in the early days. stands for Admissions and Release Committee. but, maybe that’s just here in KY?!May 3, 2014 – 4:36 amReplyCancel

        • Kristi Campbell - I just looked on Google and honestly couldn’t figure out if it’s called an ARC here too. Kentucky and Great Lakes came up but not VA. Anyway, thanks! I’ve only ever heard them called IEP meetings here…I’ll have to ask Tucker’s teacher.May 3, 2014 – 10:10 amReplyCancel

  • karen - OMG…I wanted to pinch and kiss his cheeks…then I remembered it was a computer…he’s so flipping cute. I’ve been on both sides of the meeting, as a teacher/reading specialist and as a parent when Anthony was a bit younger. I can tell you that it’s beyond nerve wracking as a parent. I know the routine, know my rights, know all the terminology…but when you are the parent at the meeting…it’s a whole new ball game. Those are great tips and all really do work. I think I may have more meeting with Anthony in the future, now that he will be in kindergarten…my professional instinct is he may need extra support…and the nerves will build once again, LOLMay 2, 2014 – 8:47 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Awe, Karen!! I’ll pinch and kiss them for you and do the same to Dino because EEEP cuteness! You’re so right that even when we know what to do and to expect, that it’s intimidating. Good luck with the upcoming nerves, and I honestly hope you don’t end up needing them!!May 2, 2014 – 8:01 pmReplyCancel

  • Katia - You have a way of making me feel like I take on your experience for a brief moment, whenever I read one of your posts. I either see the similarities between your life and parenting experience and mine or feel immersed in your reality. That was a very powerful description of the lurking disruption to life as you planned and envisioned it. I’m not an expert, but I think that you, with the help of your PAC moms, have identified the stress factors and I love your suggestions of how to tackle them. The part about bringing photos of your child into the meeting just tugged at my heart so badly. I can so relate to that feeling of wanting them to see your child for what he really is. See through those clear cut, one fit all definitions. I love you and your wonderful Tucker and what you’re doing for moms. xoxoxMay 2, 2014 – 9:16 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Katia, coming from you, that is such a huge compliment, thank you. And I see the similarities so much more than the differences too. I think something important to remember is that the whole parenting journey is more similar than it’s not, and that all of us worry etc. Also? I love your comment and I love you and well. Love. Sniff, sniff…May 2, 2014 – 8:05 pmReplyCancel

  • Twindaddy - I’m glad your experience with teacher is better than the experience I had with them. I once had a stepson with a multitude of behavior problems, and yes he was difficult, but his teachers were cold and intolerant, which made things even worse.May 2, 2014 – 9:44 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Ugh to the shit experiences, TD, I’ve heard about a lot of them. I guess we got lucky (so far, anyway. Tucker’s only 4 1/2 so we have years to have our dreams and fluffy warm fuzzies shattered).May 2, 2014 – 8:12 pmReplyCancel

  • Kerri - I hated that first meeting. When they came into my home and I felt judged. My house was so clean. Not company clean but hey the President might be stopping by clean. But what I found is if you look at your child’s teacher and therapists as part of the team and respect them they do more than respect you, they involved you.

    Boo’s teacher when we had the first IEP quietly took us aside and told us what to ask for. Her therapists always ask for things before we realize they are even needed.

    You must be freaked about kindergarten, especially given the relationship you have with Tucker’s team. But I think you have the right idea about how to survive them!May 2, 2014 – 10:02 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - OMG Kerri! That first damn meeting? UGH UGH UGH. They were SO nice but holyshit did I hate the note-taking and seeing Tucker not do shit that I guess (?) “normal” kids can do. We’ve been lucky. This past meeting, the new teacher almost tried to take some hours away but Tucker’s current teachers, and the principal, and SP and OT were awesome and we ended up with more hours of support than they’d even talked about. I’m big freaked out about kindergarten, dude. BIG HUGE FUCKEDUPFREAKED out. But it’ll be okay. I hope. 😉May 2, 2014 – 8:16 pmReplyCancel

  • Natalie D - Ah! That little smile! I can see how it would be so frustrating to speak of your son in terms of delays and disabilities, because obviously your child is so much more than that. I think I would have a hard time not being pissed off, even if those people are just trying to help.May 2, 2014 – 10:46 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - It’s way hard, Natalie, hearing “well, with his severe disability, he ______.” UGH. I don’t see him as disabled. He’s NOT disabled. He just talks funny, and um, some other stuff. Thanks for getting it. I still wish I were in Colorado after your last post and hope that the mountains continue to bring you peace and lyrics. Because you know, awesome.May 2, 2014 – 8:18 pmReplyCancel

  • Michelle AKA Dribbles and Grits - I do my IEP meetings over the phone and they send the paperwork home with the kid for me to sign. I pretty much just say, “Yeah, let’s keep speech going. And that too. Sounds good.” It’s so much easier that way. There really is nothing to dread because it’s just the paperwork to get your kid the speech teacher, or an extra aid, or whatever the school offers for kids and you need to have an IEP to get. When it comes to actual goals like, “Could you help my kid understand face expressions better?” That’s easier to do one on one with the teacher without paperwork involved. At least in my opinion.May 2, 2014 – 11:21 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - DUDE, you are WISE. Over the phone? Really? Holy crap. Never thought of that. And really great awesome advice about talking to the teachers individually. I’ve actually done that as well but didn’t really think about it for this list. It’d be a great addition (and not too late to edit, right?). Thanks.May 2, 2014 – 8:20 pmReplyCancel

  • Tamara - Lots of love to you and that adorable face.
    I think of how hard it is in general for me – this letting go and advocating and seeing what’s best in terms of preschool and kindergarten and beyond. I feel like I’m not made of the stuff of it like you are.
    However, I probably am, deep inside. And you inspire me. xoxoMay 2, 2014 – 11:30 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Thanks, SW! Letting go and advocating IS hard, but I promise you with everything that you ARE made of the stuff. You maybe haven’t had to use some of it yet, but it’s there. Really.May 2, 2014 – 8:34 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - And? You inspire me right back. xoxoMay 2, 2014 – 8:35 pmReplyCancel

  • Anna Fitfunner - Hi: The most important thing to realize about IEPs is that you will go through dozens of them during your child’s school career. They’re important, like a championship game in sports. So you need to train for them, have a game plan, recruit the right players (advocates, experts, advisers), find the right coaches, and stick to your plan. Realize that not everyone in the room is your friend, or is focused solely on the best outcome for your child. Neither is everyone in the room an enemy. Many special ed professionals have a lot of information, and count on that to take them through the IEP process, and overcome any parent objections. So you need to become a Professional Parent: be informed, be prepared, be the parent that the Special Ed Director greets by her first name.

    Tucker is lucky to have such a strong Mom!

    A May 2, 2014 – 1:24 pmReplyCancel

  • Stephanie Smith Sprenger - You are amazing, Kristi. This post is so helpful and comforting and inspiring. I LOVE that you broke down why IEP meetings are intimidating, and then gave actual practical helpful advice. You are my hero. This post is fantastic, and needs to go viral. May 2, 2014 – 2:40 pmReplyCancel

  • Leigh-Mary Barone Hoffmann - Been there. And you hit it all on the head. My 12 year old baby girl is on the spectrum. I remember cleaning and changing out of my sweatpants uniform the day our teachers came to the house for the first time too — like it was yesterday but she was just 18 months old. God bless our special babies…. (And what a cutie your Tucker is …. and I love his name!)May 2, 2014 – 2:48 pmReplyCancel

  • Lisa @ Golden Spoons - Great post! When I was a teacher, I was on that side of many IEP meetings. I didn’t have children at the time and didn’t really consider how hard it must have been for the parents on the other side of the table to sit there and listen to me talk all about what their kids couldn’t do. I know things have changed a lot since I was a teacher almost 12 years ago (Ouch!), but one thing is still the same – kids are kids no matter their abilities or disabilities.May 2, 2014 – 3:06 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Lisa! YES YES. Kids are kids. The end, really. Some just need different stuff than other kids. I’m glad for your perspective as a teacher and am still holding you to coming back if I with the lottery and make the Best Special Needs School in the World.May 2, 2014 – 8:36 pmReplyCancel

  • Amber - Great post. My son has Aspergers, so I understand all about IEP meetings.May 2, 2014 – 3:23 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - UGH to the IEPs. Thanks for getting it and thanks so much for visiting and commenting!May 2, 2014 – 8:50 pmReplyCancel

  • Kate (Shakespeare's Mom) - Back when I taught high school, I would sometimes dread IEP meetings only because we just had sooo many students and sooo many meetings and way too many responsibilities. But then, when a parent walked in, you could always tell how intimidated or at least unsure they were, and I would remember that their only concern right then was their child, and that would motivate me to let them know how much I cared about their child too. Our meetings were always in a drab conference room with terrible lighting and I wished we could have them in my classroom, with art and big windows and kids’ projects everywhere and my desk covered in a mess. I don’t know why they never did that. Anyway, I totally get your lack of interest in going to more IEP meetings. They must be pretty stressful on your end. But if Tucker keeps having good teachers, and keeps being in classrooms that do good things for him, I’m sure the IEP meetings will go well.May 2, 2014 – 3:30 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I know that teachers are understaffed and that that is one of the biggest problems, so I don’t blame you for dreading IEP meetings. Also, I love love that you were able to turn off all of the bureaucracy and focus on the parent, and understand about them (and you) caring about their child. That’s awesome, big awesome.
      Great idea about having the meetings in more friendly places, like the classroom with all the kids’ art around. That’s huge.
      Thanks so much, Kate!May 2, 2014 – 8:53 pmReplyCancel

  • Christy Garrett Parenting Tips - IEP meetings are typically boring but very necessary. I have to attend one in a few weeks for my daughter. I had to overthrow a teachers recommendation for classes last year.

    Don’t be afraid to give your child a challenge, life isn’t going to go easy on them as children. They wanted my daughter to take a class that wouldn’t help her get into college, so I told her that she had to take the harder road. She has done fairly well and does struggle some but I knew she could do it.

    You are your child’s advocate, stand up for what you think is best for your child whenever possible.May 2, 2014 – 3:49 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - You ROCK for throwing away teacher recommendations for your daughter and knowing what she really needs! And thanks for the reminder that I’m the best advocate.May 2, 2014 – 8:58 pmReplyCancel

  • Ruchira Khanna - oh look at that pix, Tucker is full of naughtiness yet adorable…hugs!

    I am happy to read that Tucker got all the right guidance and advise with respect to his growth…I agree such meetings can be a drag when people are trying to come up with solutions with not much theory floating around…I loved how you digged deeper into this plight and gave your wonderful suggestions to stay afloat amidst such dreary meetings 😉May 2, 2014 – 3:55 pmReplyCancel

  • Brittnei - Wow this is so wonderful that you had all of this support on the journey. These are some new terms and concepts for me. I’m so glad that I can learn from a blog friend. Tucker seems to be in great hands. 🙂May 2, 2014 – 5:30 pmReplyCancel

  • High Heels 2 Hidden Toys - Aww… I love this! I’ve been in on countless IEP meetings as a regular education teacher. If it makes you feel any better, it can feel pretty intimidating on the teacher side of the table too. There’s so much educational jargon and it can be so difficult to understand if you don’t know the language… I always tried to make sure my parents understood what I was talking about when terms like benchmark, running record, oral reading fluency, etc were spit out. I’ve always said that if I had a zillion dollars I would start my own company of “professional advocates” for parents/students (for ALL students) to be there as support for the parent. I think your tips are great and I’m sure they will help a lot of parents!!May 2, 2014 – 5:50 pmReplyCancel

  • Marcia @ Menopausal Mother - I think it’s wonderful that you are passing down important information that other mothers of children with special needs will benefit from learning—from you. I’m sharing another one of your posts with my daughter who is almost finished with her degree and interns in a special needs class. I love that she gets to hear the parent’s view!May 2, 2014 – 8:09 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Thank you so much for sharing, Marcia! I appreciate it and funny timing as I just came off Sarah’s site and was wondering what the best link is to share for your awesome new book! I’m so excited for you!!!May 2, 2014 – 11:18 pmReplyCancel

  • Jean Baldridge Yates - Good for you, and great news for your son! I was a parent advocate –remember I mentioned that? Do you have them in your school district? It is good to see another face sitting at that table who is there for YOU. All for you, and your son. xox jeanMay 2, 2014 – 9:33 pmReplyCancel

  • that cynking feeling - Know what’s even better than taking a photo of your child? Taking your kid. I was worried how it would go, but I’m so glad Philip was there during the meeting. Sure, by that time it ended 2 hours (2 hours!) later, he was ready to go, but so was everyone else. We, too, were having a kindergarten transitional meeting, so it was important for the new staff to see him. It prompted questions, but it also answered them, too.May 2, 2014 – 9:37 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I almost brought my son but you know what??? THEY called me and asked that I don’t bring him (he’s pretty disruptive) so we hired a sitter. So not only do I get to do an IEP but I pay somebody to go. This time, it really wasn’t that bad though and hello I LOVE THAT you brought your kid. Classic, genius and really fucking brilliant when I think about it.May 2, 2014 – 11:27 pmReplyCancel

  • Louise - I agree with taking you child. I just had my twins IEP meeting for preschool. We had 2 meetings before that to ask questions and voice concerns. I had some safety concerns that they kinda brushed aside. I brought my boys into the next meeting so they could see how they are. And when we met to write the IEP they had already started working on a plan to keep my boys safe. They wouldn’t have done that if I hadn’t bright them in.May 2, 2014 – 10:11 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - wow, Louise, I’m glad you brought them then!! And so glad they are working to keep your precious boys safe!!May 2, 2014 – 11:29 pmReplyCancel

  • Emily - Having been to my share of IEP meetings, you are so right that they suck. And YES to them being so intimidating!! But, you were again so right when you said that we are the boss. Sometimes that is hard to remember in a room full of people, but we have to remind ourselves that no one is going to be a bigger or better advocate for our child than us the parents. As for bringing a photo – LOVE that suggestion!!May 2, 2014 – 10:30 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Emily
      here’s to remembering we’re the boss, that they suck, and that nobody is more important than we are coming to the table. I love the idea of bringing a photo too!!! Going to remember that one forever.May 2, 2014 – 11:31 pmReplyCancel

  • Kat - Kristi, I actually had tears in my eyes as I read this post. I have SO much respect for you and all parents raising special needs kids and all that you go through for your kids. You are his biggest advocate and he’s lucky to have you on his side.May 3, 2014 – 9:18 amReplyCancel

  • A Morning Grouch - As a special ed teacher I’d definitely say that the IEP meeting is a formality and that communication consistently throughout the year is what is going to get you what your kiddo needs. And the word “disability area” is soooooo prevalent in all the IEP documentation we are required to fill out – which sucks since delay or difference would be a much better choice of words, in my opinion. May 4, 2014 – 3:13 amReplyCancel

  • Yvonne - I do think you are doing such a great job of supporting Tucker with all he needs to grow and live life to the full. I’ve never had to deal with this, and don’t even know what IEP stands for, so my heart goes out to you.

    I loved “High Heels 2 Hidden Toys” reply to you – perhaps you/her/we all could “crowd source” and get the millions needed for the professional advocates company!May 4, 2014 – 12:01 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Thanks, Yvonne! IEP = Individual Education Plan, for kids with special needs. It outlines how much support they’ll get, what type of classroom setting is best, and then is used to measure individual goals (Tucker will say xyz on 3 out of 4 occasions measured quarterly). And yes! Cheers to the professional advocates company!!May 6, 2014 – 9:16 amReplyCancel

  • Chronicallysickmanicmother - IEP…man that just brings up so many bad memories… As a child I was an ESE child. Back in the day…the kid went to the IEP as well. I just remember the negative. What I wasn’t doing.

    As a Mother my daughter has very slight ADD. and I don’t label her that very easily or lightly. We are using homeopathic supplements… We have considered therapy but seriously its not severe enough for that. She will have other things to be in therapy in the future I am sure… We have been lucky in that she is in a charter school , a montessori school. Still I make the extra effort to make parent teacher conferences every semester. Even this year in which I am not thrilled with her teachers.

    I appreciate and love your rawness and honesty.May 4, 2014 – 3:35 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Your daughter’s charter school sounds wonderful and I agree that if she doesn’t need therapy, it’s best to use homeopathic supplements. It’s easy to have bad memories of IEP meetings, from what I’ve gathered from wise internet friends. So far, we’ve been lucky. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment!May 6, 2014 – 9:35 amReplyCancel

  • linda Atwell - Out One Ear - you are so wise.
    and that really says it all.May 5, 2014 – 12:09 amReplyCancel

  • Nikki Frank-Hamilton - We all have our struggles, but knowing that love, all consuming, never-ending, always growing, parental love is the best thing ever. Sometimes we have to do the hard things. I told my kids, God gave me the best gift ever-YOU, but He also trusted me to love you and raise you correctly. Sometimes this means that I have to step up when I don’t want to, and there are times that I truly don’t want to, but I always will. Kudos to you. For stepping up in a HUGE way. (and btw, Tucker is adorable!)May 5, 2014 – 6:27 pmReplyCancel

  • Erin - How timely you are my dear Kristi! Evan’s first official IEP meeting will be in two weeks or so. We have had meetings but this will be the biggie where we sit and discuss the big ol’ legal document. And being a special ed teacher AND certified to be a LDTC and be on the IEP team…..phew, it presents a whole lot of things for me to be swirling in my head. You are right, any time you have to sit down and discuss goals, objectives, etc- it is just a reminder of deficits instead of a celebration of ability. Unfortunately so much rests on the actual teachers and therapists that will work with our sons. They are the ones that have the ability to focus on strengths and use them to help out the delays. Thank you again for always writing something that speaks directly to me. 🙂May 5, 2014 – 11:45 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Erin,
      You’re so right that much depends on the teachers and therapists. I hope that Evan has a team that you fall in love with, and they him, (well how could they not fall in love with him – that will be easy). Here’s to remembering to focus on the strengths. I’ll be thinking of you and please let me know how it goes, okay?May 6, 2014 – 9:37 amReplyCancel

  • allison - Poop & hope. Sounds like my life, too, and I hope I never have to go to an IEP meeting. xoMay 6, 2014 – 7:04 pmReplyCancel

  • Jen Kehl - I love you. EVERYONE needs this post. And when I’m not laying in bed typing on my iPad with my swear finger I will share this on fb because I know a lot of people who need to hear it.
    Next week Isaiah has an eval with a psychiatrist at his neuro’s request. Why it has me worried I don’t know. Ok, I do. I don’t want anyone putting my boy in a box with a label. They don’t know him like I do. How can they make a decision about his needs in 2 one hour sessions? Anyway….I get you my friend. You are the best mama ever. I even think that when I’m not around. Xoxoxo TTT x10May 6, 2014 – 11:42 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I love you too Jen. UGH to the eval with the psychiatrist but honestly, I’m sure it’ll be fine and maybe you’ll learn something to help him. Open mind? Still, I’d be dreading it as well… I’ll be sending good thoughts for no labels and a smooth eval.

      I think you’re the best mama ever and I think that when you’re not around too 😉
      TTTx10May 7, 2014 – 12:17 pmReplyCancel

  • Kerith Stull - OMG. HATE HATE HATE IEP meetings! It was what I dreaded most about sending Brielle back to public school after three years of homeschooling. AWESOME tips and insight here. I’m sure it will help lots of parents. Bravo! (PS LOVE LOVE LOVE the pictures!)May 7, 2014 – 9:43 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Kerith, I think part of why they suck so much is because they’re so focused on all of the disabilities, which is hard and icky and just feels sad and defeated. I’m glad you like the tips and insight (and photos!!). Thanks, friend.May 7, 2014 – 12:18 pmReplyCancel

  • Kate Hall - Wow, sadly, I only did ONE of those things on the list to prepare for our IEP meetings – bring my husband. Ugh. May 10, 2014 – 1:16 pmReplyCancel

  • Jolene Philo - As a former classroom teacher who did special needs inclusion with many children, I attended many, many IEP meetings and annual reviews. Here’s a secret: they’re hard to teachers, too, who have come to love their students and wish they could dwell only on the positives, who know that school is just one dimension of a child’s life.

    Thanks for this post and for adding it to’s Tuesday special needs link share today!May 13, 2014 – 7:00 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Jolene,
      I know that they are hard for the teachers as well. I know because right now, my son has amazing teachers and his Preschool Autism Classroom teacher actually confronted the kindergarten teacher saying “wouldn’t you rather have the staff you need to accommodate rather than have to add hours after the fact?” We got almost 10 more hours than initially proposed, because of her, and because I said “ok fine, let’s go through Tucker’s day, 30-minutes by 30-minutes.” Initially, they thought he wouldn’t need support in music and gym – which is almost funny, it’s so not true. We have it now. We don’t have playground support. My guess is that it will be added within the first month of school, but we’ll see.
      Thanks so much for the perspective and you’re right. Dwelling on the positives instead of the parent having to hear “disability” over and over and over again would be a big help!!!
      xo to you!May 14, 2014 – 10:47 pmReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth - Thank you for emphasizing how the parents are the boss in this process. There is so much experience and expertise in the room that it can be easy to defer to teachers, administrators, specialists.

    But parents are the experts on their own children.

    Two focuses (foci?) I always have: What are the identified strengths my son has that are being used to guide the IEP accommodations and interventions; and time is of the essence. I call IEP meetings whenever I think something is going funny, I don’t wait. Children are amazing, dynamic creatures. They are not static. Their plans can’t be either.July 19, 2014 – 3:11 pmReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth - all 4 of our boys have had IFSPS /IEPS/GIEPS and I do recommend having your child attend even if just for a few minutes. It’s taught our boys to advocate for themselves in the meeting and then later to tell us when they weren’t working on stuff that had been agreed to.
    I also love the reminder that you as the family OWN that meeting. I ask for the room location and show up 10-15 minutes early to set up refreshments and bottles of water. It helps to make everyone work together as a team rather than adversaries and if you need to take a pause, it helps to have a bottle of water to drink while you think of what you want to say.

    I ask for present levels and proposed goals sent to me ahead of time and I do the same for the family input so that we can be on the same page and make good use of everyone’s time. Email is wonderful, but some of my sons’ providers come see me on my lunch break, especially if they have suggestions that are better coming from the parent/family. It can be helpful for me to ask the teachers and therapists what they need to be able to help my sons and then I can put a request in to administration with reasons why it’s appropriate.

    Bring multiple copies of what you see as your child’s needs and strengths to the meeting so that there is less confusion.

    I could say more, but I’d encourage you all in the US to link up with your LICC i(local Interagency Coordinating Council) in Early Intervention and your LTF (local Task Force for the Right to Special Educatuon) in school age. You can find some great help there, and the administrators of programs can be more helpful if they know your family. We also do well with workshops like EI Families in Pittsburgh and others through our Parent Education Center.

    Hang in there everyone, and ask for an new IEP meeting or NOREP (placement) — check out your Procedural Safeguards for good information.April 22, 2015 – 8:11 amReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I think having our kids attend is really good advice. I’ve been wavering on that because my son already asks to go to the doctor because he thinks his words are broken 🙁
      He likes speech though which is a huge plus. Here’s to OWNING the meeting – you’re so right. It can be very very intimidating and scary and frankly, it’s awful hearing “disability” and “delay” over and over. I love that you bring water – what a great idea!!!
      We had pretty great experiences with Early Intervention as well but those services ended at age three, which is when Tucker started Preschool Autism Classroom (which I still credit to helping him to speak with the ABA therapy they used). Thank you!! Huge thank you for your advice and insight – I really appreciate you sharing it all here!April 22, 2015 – 10:35 pmReplyCancel

  • Allison B - As someone who has been on both sides of the IEP table I like your list. But I would add talking to the teacher before the IEP about your concerns. I was able to talk to my son’s teacher multiple times before the IEP and we were on the same page before we even got to the meeting. I knew her concerns and she knew mine. I told her what goals I wanted for my son and she listened and included them. The meeting went smoothly and I wasn’t stressed at all, unlike every previous IEP. From now on I’m going to make sure I talk to his teachers before we meet.April 22, 2015 – 6:04 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I agree that talking to the teacher before the IEP is huge and makes a big difference. That, to me, anyway, felt easier when my son was in a more contained and smaller classroom. Now, he’s mainstream kindergarten and I feel like his needs get a little lost there, although he’s thriving… thank you!!April 22, 2015 – 10:40 pmReplyCancel

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