Lightening does strike. Lotteries are won. Sunken treasure is found. And sometimes- now and then - the right people are gathered around the right table and a miracle happens. There is an IEP meeting that is professional and productive and the child's interests are advanced. No one is there to demonize anyone else. There is no thought at who will "win". The child wins. The child's needs are scrutinized, their abilities are documented and (as Hannibal from the A-Team might say) " a plan comes together." The grown ups all act like grown ups. They lay down their defensiveness and instead strive to listen to what is really being said. Lightening does strike. Lotteries are won. Sunken treasure is found. IEP miracles happen.
SO WHAT THE HECK DO WE DO NOW?
No seriously. Sam and I have attended and participated with Isaac's IEPs for 13 years. Please know that this does not mean we have simply been a part of 13 IEPs. No. Honestly, I have lost count of that actual number in the same manner that I have lost count of the stray silver hairs invading my otherwise brunette mane. We have fought and researched and argued and advocated for our son for what seems like forever. We know how to proceed when his education is threatened. What does one do after a really good IEP?
- Go ahead. Pinch yourself. Make sure you are indeed awake and that this is not a dream. Read the document to be sure. Ask your IEP buddy (spouse, significant other, etc.) if the events you remember are real and not the result of some wild hallucination. This step is actually rather important. We must be present in reality in order to best advocate for our children.
- Rejoice. Do you seriously know how rare this is? A table full of grown ups acted in the best interests of a child. Think about that from an educational, religious, cultural and societal standpoint and then wonder at what an amazing feat this is in this world. The needs of the weakest are taken into consideration by the strongest. Unreal. Rejoice!
- Appreciate. Specifically! As a society, we sometimes forget the power of unsolicited sincere appreciation. This is a perfect time to demonstrate. You are not thanking the educational staff because of peer pressure put on by other parents in honor of a specific day or week of educational appreciation. You are honestly taking the moment to show them that you are grateful. Tell them what it means to you to be a part of a team that is sincerely advocating for your child's needs. Tell them what an honor it is to walk beside them to champion your child. Thank them especially for what they did the best with ....listening to your ideas and concerns, thoroughly assessing your child's strengths and weaknesses, thinking outside the box in a way that is most concerned with your child's needs.
-Personalize. Remind the team members of how wonderful it is to work with such a forward thinking team. Beyond thanking them as the meeting adjourns, send them an email again expressing support for what they do in their professional position and letting them know what a difference they continue to make for the children that they serve.
- Partner. Education is rough business. Educators routinely expose themselves to criticism from every part of society for no recognition and little comparative compensation. They need help. See how you can. Look for ways to partner with your child's teacher and school to support the work they are doing. Partnering throughout the year naturally leads to partnering at your child's IEPs. You are used to seeing each other as equally concerned for and committed to the children you are serving.
-Celebrate! Even if you were privileged to witness the miracle of a positive IEP, you will still feel the effects of IEP build up. The night before the IEP when you were tossing and turning, the hours spent researching appropriate practices for your child while bent over the keyboard of your laptop and the over exposure of caffeine will need to be dealt with. Get a sitter for the kids. Go out. Have dinner. Walk. Relax. Reflect. Rejoice!
Sending love my friends and warm wishes of positive IEPs in your future.