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Do you feel uncomfortable advocating for your child in an IEP?

Do you feel uncomfortable advocating for your child in an IEP?  OMG, it was the most uncomfortable thing, but it has gotten much better by knowing the things I know now.  I remember I would get myself all worked up before the meeting and by the time I went into the IEP meeting I was already mad and my adrenalin pumping.  I laugh now, but at the time there nothing funny about it. 

Let me take this back a bit. Have I said I have been through hell?  Well, I have and honestly that is a nice word for it.   

How many of you feel like you are not being fully heard and understood?  I have been a special needs parent for 12 and a half years, and I have been where you are.  I have been through the IEP trenches. I have worked hard to get my child the best possible education—Remember, you really cannot use the word “Best”, but that is what we are aiming for.  

With everything I have been through, I have learned so much. I now can have the conversations necessary to make sure my child gets what she needs.  I know can walk in that room with a purpose, with no fear, and ready.   

This wasn’t always the case, and one of my biggest struggles as a parent was feeling like I wasn’t qualified to make judgments about my child’s educational goals. HA! That went out the window quick after several IEP meetings and me leaving those meetings feeling like, “What the hell just happened”?  I did not get out anything that I planned on saying, nothing was really discussed that I needed discussed, questions were not answered, and at times I would feel like I was in a bubble with sounds all around me.  There were so many professionals around the table and so much talk and information that sometimes it all was just a blur.  I realized, that sometimes their goal was to do just that. Get you in and out as quickly as possible.  

The IEP table scared me in the beginning.  Yes, me.  My friends would probably laugh at this that bold crazy me was scared. I hated these meetings.  Before-hand I would sometimes feel so sick to my stomach.  You know, that sick to your stomach feeling where you are like, I need to go poop right now. Yea, that was me. 

I would prep for the IEP, but you know how that goes, when you are new and how you prep VS when you have had some good old practice and been put through the trenches is a very different prep.  I don’t even know how I thought what I did in the beginning was prepping but at the same time, what I did, helped get me where I am now.  

The things I have been through, the stress, the anxiety, the overwhelm, and the sickening feeling of “am I ever going to get my child what she needs”, is something I feel no parent should have to go through and feel what is done here is wrong. 

Directors of education, teachers, therapists such as OT’s, and PT’s etc. all lied to me about my child’s education and safety.  They created a space where I could not trust the IEP team who my child was with each and every day.  They would lie about her goals being met and when questioned did not have a direct response. I would finally tell them to bring my daughter in so I could see this mastered goal that my gut said was not mastered.  I was right.  I would also be lied to about safety concerns. I would get the big fat, “I don’t know what happened, I did not see anything”.  

I would get so angry that I would cry in my car after I left.  I am mama lion when it comes to my daughter and to be lied to about safety and education, two of the most important things when you think about the educational setting and your child. 

The school system and team would blame things on me and say how I was intimidating, how I was in their face, and how strait forward I was. They would say that this is what “MADE” them lie and be dishonest.  I was even told, “not everyone deals with confrontation like you and they don’t know what to do”.  Seriously people?!  I am direct and in your face because of the history of crap I have been dealt by you and you want to tell me that because I am very clearly advocating for my child and want answers, and being direct in my delivery of that, that I am causing the team to lie to me due to their own insecurities of not being able to handle direct questions?  I am sorry, did I miss something here? 

This is what advocating is about.  It is not just taking one’s word for it, it is listening and hearing what is being told to you, and then responding back with questions that need direct answers and responses.  If that is not done, re ask the question, do not just leave it where they left it if you are not satisfied with the answer.  Push and do not be afraid to push!  You deserve a direct answer.  Do not allow them to go around in circles.  They want this and they want you to just be satisfied with their half assed answer and say, OK.  

I realize now, there is not one person in the world who knows more about our children and their needs than us.  Always rely on your gut and never stray away from it.  I feel confident knowing this one simple thing. This one thing has carried me through all these years. If there is one thing that you take from this, it is that.  Feel confident in knowing this.  You know your child better than anyone else in this world so who better to advocate for them, who better than to walk into that room with confidence, sit down and you carry that meeting.  Don’t let the fear control you, your actions, or the reason you are there—to advocate for your child. 

You know, in all meetings there is a leader, the one who keeps things flowing, focused and on point, right?  Well that leader is you!  Now, go feel comfortable advocating for your child in an IEP meeting and know that you, and only you can truly deliver your child’s needs in the most direct way.  Then, once that is on the table, you can get to work on meeting those needs in the most appropriate way and stop feeling uncomfortable advocating for your child’s needs in an IEP meeting. 

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