I'm a Special Education Parent and my child has an IEP: What now?
Updated: Oct 6, 2022
In 2021 my oldest son started school and my husband, and I knew early on he would benefit from support due to some perfectionist thinking and behaviors that were a direct result of being too hard on himself. Being a mental health professional, I am big on COMMUNICATION, so I thought no worries I will communicate with his teacher and his school, set up a meeting and we will be good to go. Little did I know that would not be the case.
We reached out and sought support but unfortunately, we did not receive that support when needed but more importantly our son did not either. Prior to the challenging days that would be his KINDERGARTEN year and the adjustment that comes to new changes and structure our sweet boy was thriving. New adjustment, enjoyment, what do they call it … the honeymoon period. Then the work set in, and the struggles set in and because of that so did the behaviors.
This led to discipline reports, phone calls and notes home, and eventually the meeting that we had requested. After trying ALL THE THINGS, consequences, talking to our son, we realized we were missing something and what we were missing was why we the adults couldn’t give him the support he needed. So, we took the step to get a professional psychologist involved and to request a Special Education Evaluation. Which was by far one of the hardest things we had to do.
SPECIAL EDUCATION EVALUTION! You couldn’t have paid us to believe our son would need one of these, much less that we would be requesting one, but here we were. We felt defeated as parents, but we also felt sad for our son. What did this mean, how will this impact him? The answer was it BENEFITED him and got him the support he needed. And more importantly gave us the confidence to advocate for his needs because now we knew what his needs were. So, what was the result of the testing: a diagnosis of Autism, level 1 along with an IEP for Social Emotional Developmental Delay.
Fast forward a school year later, a grade later, hello 1ST GRADE, and we are still learning but more capable, ready, and prepared to advocate for ourselves as parents and more importantly advocate for our son who can’t always advocate for himself. So, what do I wish we knew then? That all schools are not going to communicate with you the way you want or need. That parents new to the school system sometimes need support and assistance navigating the process. That you know your child but that in different settings they can display behaviors you haven’t seen BUT that there is always a trigger and addressing that trigger can alleviate the behavior.
Which is why I came up with these 5 tips for parents who may be going through the Special Education Evaluation Process, the Behavior Plan process, or who’s child currently has an IEP. All these things can apply:
1. Schedule a meeting as soon as you have concerns!
You don’t wait for the school to contact you! You can reach out to them through the first open house, the initial introduction phone call with the teacher, through registration with the register
Request that meeting!
2. Provide the school with tips and tricks that have worked at home for your child’s needs!
You know your child best! What helps prevent an autistic meltdown, how long can they focus on a task before needing a break, what areas do they struggle in?
Be their advocate and help them succeed!
3. Bring support to the meeting!
Sometimes we need someone there who can: Remove the emotion and help us get our point across. Some Examples are: Spouse, Educational Advocate/Consultant, EFMP Family Support or School Liaison (For our military families)
Sometimes we need support and that’s okay!
4. Write out your concerns!
What are you worried about, what do you want the school to know, what do you want the school to answer. Some Examples: I need a daily communication log w/ the teacher, I need communication regarding specific behaviors, my child needs breaks after Math or Handwriting because they get easily frustrated, notifying the school my child has night terrors & this could impact their school day
This is what I need for my child to be successful & what I need to ease my worries!
5. Ask questions
Becoming a special education parent means an introduction to a lot of terms BUT it is also a structured process with set guidelines, so it’s okay to ask the questions. Some Examples: What is an IEP? What is a BIP? What is a 504? How long will they be on this? When will we meet again? How will I know my child is succeeding?
We don’t know what we don’t know, it’s okay to ask questions!
Would you add anything? Did I miss anything? Were these tips helpful? Comment below and let me know!