Saturday, February 06, 2016

Questions You'll REALLY Want to Ask at the IEP Meeting

My Parenting Roundabout colleague Amanda Morin recently published a very helpful article on called "Questions to Ask Before and During an IEP Team Meeting," which will guide parents who are perhaps new to the IEP process or don't feel they've participated in it as fully as they should to be the best advocates they can be. Seriously, we all need more of that stuff, and Amanda and the folks produce a lot of great tools.

However, when you've got a bunch of IEPs under your belt, you realize that the proper questions, while useful, so very very often don't get straight answers—or get you that "this is what happens when parents learn to use the Internet" eye-roll. Schools may say they want informed, educated, proactive parents (just kidding, they don't say that), but what they really want is parents who believe what they say and shut up and sign the papers.

I always had lots of questions before and during an IEP team meeting. But I'm afraid they weren't of the productive sort. Just off the top of my head, here's 20 questions you'll really want to ask:

  1. Are you #$%@ing kidding me?
  2. Am I in the wrong meeting?
  3. What happened to the team members I met with last time?
  4. Why isn't the regular-ed teacher here?
  5. Why is the substitute teacher who doesn't actually know what an IEP is here?
  6. Why do you schedule a 90-minute meeting for a time when you only have 15 minutes to spare?
  7. If you know my child better than I do, how come you don't have the right name and gender in the IEP?
  8. How many trees did you kill to put all this stuff together?
  9. Do you ever think about how what you're saying sounds to someone who loves this child?
  10. How quickly would you smack someone who said that about your kid?
  11. Can I copy-edit this IEP?
  12. In which filing cabinet do you stash all the hopes and dreams you steal from parents?
  13. Is this seriously the best office the school could find for you?
  14. Can I give a report as the behavior consultant, since you're always asking me to solve school behavior problems?
  15. Would you say that if my child was sitting right here? 
  16. Why would you say that when my child is sitting right here?
  17. Why do I know more about special-education law than you do?
  18. Why do I know more about teaching than you do?
  19. Why did you ever, ever go into this line of work?
  20. Why are you offering me a pen? I can sign using the blood from all these stab wounds.

Got more? Add them in the comments, or tweet them to me @mamatude.


Jim said...

These really hit home. Especially:

Why do I know more about special-education law than you do?

Having adopted 7 special needs kids, and having fostered over 30, my wife has become an expert in the legal aspects.

Michael Chinni said...

All good, especially #15 & 16 but I like #20 best. :)

Terri Mauro said...

Jim, give your wife a high-five and a hug from me. I adopted two kids with special needs and got them both through the special-ed system and it just about killed me. Can't imagine doing it with even one more, never mind 35!

David Graham said...

I really liked this article. I am currently a teacher candidate at Illinois State University and we are learning about the IEP process and what that entails. It is unfortunate to see the frustration and concerns that an actual parent has with the education system. I hope that I will be given the tools to better accommodate parents and ensure the process is more collaborative in the future.

Jessie Citterman said...

I’m studying to be a special education major at ISU, and we're currently delving into special education laws and the whole process of implementing a successful IEP. I'm so sorry you have had to deal with such a seemingly incompetent IEP team. It's upsetting to hear that you have had so many negative experiences in IEP meetings. As a future teacher, your blog post will undoubtedly help me be more aware of what I say and how I say it during my IEP meetings, and I really appreciate that! I'm always looking for ways to improve, and this post has given me many! Thank you for sharing your story, and I can't wait to read more of your posts in the future!