The other side

June 01,2009
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

For those of you on the edge of your seats (and I know you're out there) wondering how we made out on Friday at the end-of-year IEP meeting, it went well--better than either one of us had anticipated. I realized during the first 25 minutes or so of what turned out to be a 2 1/2 hour long meeting, that I had desperately needed to let off some steam, and L.'s IEP team seemed to recognize that. Scott and I had stayed up late the night before strategizing and writing out an "agenda" of our concerns, goals, and needs. I would strongly advise any parent going into an IEP meeting to take the time to do this before the meeting. Not only did the agenda help us stay on course and focused (and forced me to channel my steam-releasing in productive ways), but it served as a useful document for the team to attach to the reams of IEP forms for next year. I learned some other things along the way too, things like: If you go into a meeting like that expecting the worse, you might be pleasantly surprised when it turns out better than you expected. Even though no one knows your child better than you do, sometimes, just sometimes, the teachers who spend 6 1/2 hours/day with him know a thing or two, too. And it's done--we're on the other side of it. No one finds such meetings enjoyable (if you do, let me know and share your tips!), but they are important--the type of important and unpleasant thing that you have to square your shoulders and just face, head-on. You have to keep in mind, no matter how difficult this is, that your own feelings aren't at stake--that this is not a personal battle between yourself and someone else, but a meeting in which your child's needs are front and center--your child, the most important thing that could possibly ever be at stake at any meeting you might attend. (For more tips on surviving an IEP meeting, you can read this post of mine) ************* We survived the annual IEP meeting, now we're turning to surviving the summer. Around these parts many parents fork out hundreds of dollars to keep their kids occupied during the summer. We don't have the hundreds of dollars to do this, but we also have to work around L.'s reluctance to do much of anything, and this reality is at odds constantly with his need to have his days scheduled and organized by us, since an open-ended, unscheduled day is stressful for him. But who wants to schedule a day in the summertime? We stick to the basics: each morning we present L. with a short schedule, dividing up his free time and rotating him through some of his favorite activities (think "center time" at school), like computer time, reading, a craft or science activity (check back tomorrow for more on this!), and an outing thrown in here and there for good measure (trip to the store, library, or to an appointment). We used to get fancy with the schedules, and would print them out on the computer, complete with clip art. Now we write them up on a piece of paper, and I use crayons or a highlighter to add some color. It's hard to believe something so simple as a handwritten schedule could make such a difference to L., but it does--and if you have a child who doesn't transition well from activity to activity, or who can't seem to structure his or her own time, a visual schedule can work wonders. In fact, schedules are such a part of our daily lives around here in the summer that T. has taken to making helpful ones for her brother as well. Schedules like this one, which she made on Saturday: T.'s schedule and which, according to her, instructs L. to stay in his room at night until 4:00 a.m., and then IF and only IF he has to, he should wake up T. instead of his poor sleep-deprived parents.