Often times, meetings between the school and parents of a child with special needs can feel as uncomfortable as they sound and they can be downright hostile. For parents, these meetings can be particularly uncomfortable for a litany of reasons. These meetings can feel cold, accusational, diminutive and dismissive and at the end of it, some parents wonder if they were even heard. At Lexington Services, we strive to make these IEP meetings as comfortable, informative and productive as possible. Overall, our teachers and staff have identified what makes these meetings so uncomfortable in a public setting and we’re willing to bet that many parents agree on these factors.
It Feels Like You Versus A Whole Room
A lot of parents indicate that when they attend these IEP meetings, they feel like they’re being reprimanded, sitting with a partner or alone at the foot of the table, while a team of 5 to 8 school representatives lays forth everything that is “wrong” with their child’s progress. They make quick note of all the faults that need to be corrected. It’s a negotiation tactic designed to make you feel like you don’t have a voice. Places that care will sit across the table from you and listen to your concerns, not try to make you feel intimidated into accepting their plan.
There Is No Discussion Of Success
From a school standpoint, these IEP meetings are put in place to establish goals and milestones that your child has not achieved yet so they can work toward those throughout the year. However, most of their empathy for your child seems to fly right out the window, as people seem to only discuss deficits, rather than spend any time discussing the positive influence that the last plan had on their learning and how they have progressed. Your child’s success should be a focus of IEP meetings as well because it demonstrates what a school is doing right.
You Aren’t Seen As Your Child’s First Advocate
As you sit at a table of highly trained experts, it seems like all that you have contributed, all the daily struggles and all the advocacy is completely ignored. Often times, successful IEP meetings will leave you feeling like you have done very little or that you in some way contributed to the deficits by not having the same level of understanding of theoretical treatment. Never mind that you have been the daily advocate, provider and source of encouragement for your child.
Your Opinion Feels Like It Doesn’t Matter
Bad IEP meetings will make you feel like your opinion or your reservations don’t matter. A good meeting with a successful outcome for everyone in mind should leave you feeling heard and like your opinions matter. At the very least, it should also demonstrate why the school and staff want to implement certain portions of the plan to help your child so they can grow.
You Feel Forced To Settle
The worst IEP meetings are designed to force you to settle without getting what your child needs. They want you to feel like you need to defer to their judgement and accept that they know what’s best for your child. While they might be experts and perhaps their plan is absolutely perfect, they still need to give you room to make your terms or understand why these terms are the best for everyone. Acceptance should not be forced upon you.
These are common complaints that we hear from parents that have reached out to us and we know that far too many parents don’t even realize that they can complain. At Lexington, we don’t want anyone to leave meetings between staff and parents with tears in their eyes. We want to make sure that we get the plan right for your child so they can get the education and support they need.