8 Steps to Better IEP Meetings:
Play Hearts, Not Poker

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September 30, 2008

ISSN: 1538-3202

Issue: 455
Subscribers: 64,632

In This Issue:

Have You Voted in IEP Poll? Vote Now!

Playing Poker at an IEP Meeting Does Not Work for Your Child

We Cannot Lead an IEP Team We Do Not Join

8 Steps to Better IEP Meetings

Your Child's IEP Should Never Be a Gamble


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IEP Tips: What to Do at an IEP Meeting
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Pete and Pam Wright
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Copyright 2008, Peter W. D. Wright and Pamela Darr Wright. All rights reserved. Please do NOT reprint or host on your web site without explicit permission.

Your child's IEP should never be a gamble.

Know what your goals are and work them. Many roads lead to the same place. Many different cards can win the game.

Were not suggesting that advocating for the special needs of children is trivial, but sometimes good advocacy often works like a game.

Jennifer Bollero, an attorney and mother of a child with autism, advises that if you learn "the rules" and strategies, you reduce the risks when you negotiate for your child.

In this issue of the Special Ed Advocate, read Jennifer's article, Play Hearts, Not Poker to find 8 steps for more effective IEP meetings.

You'll also get to cast your vote in the IEP Poll.

Please don't hesitate to forward this issue of the Special Ed Advocate to other families, friends, and colleagues.

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Have You Voted in the IEP Poll? Vote Now!

Don't miss the latest IEP FAQ on the Wrightslaw Way Blog.

How long should a school have to get me a copy of the revised IEP after my son’s IEP meeting?

Vote in the IEP Poll, find the answer to the FAQ, and see the results & comments from other voters.

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Playing Poker at an IEP Meeting Does Not Work for Your Child

Many parents and advocates involved in IEPs use "poker" language to describe the process.

A siege mentality sets in, lines are drawn, and the parties toss therapies and interventions onto the table like chips. They wager with the child's needs, but rarely does the child walk away with any of the pot.

This is why playing poker at an IEP does not work for your child.

Scroll down for eight steps that will work to make a better IEP meeting.

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We Cannot Lead an IEP Team We Do Not Join

If we want the other team members to be patient, prepared, and educated about our child's needs, we must set the standard.

  • We must be understanding of them and the demands on their time.
  • We must be patient with them as they learn our child's method of learning.
  • We must be prepared and secure helpful test results on our child's development, articles or other related materials, and then share them; and
  • We must be as or more educated about the objective realities of our child's disability so we can talk to other team members as peers.

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Eight Steps to Better IEP Meetings

1. Make every attempt to sustain relationships.

Like the many hands in a hearts game, IEP negotiations play out over time. A game of cards is always more enjoyable when played in a group that likes and respects each other. Try to get to know and personally connect to the other team members.

2. Keep the focus on the child's needs, not the district's resources or the parents' expectations.

  • Get Independent Evaluations
  • Design Specific, Measurable, Realistic IEP Goals
  • Parental Expectations v. District Resources

3. Always provide "face saving" ways out of a dilemma. Have a back-up plan.

Encourage brainstorming among all informed people at team meetings, especially before an IEP. When the collective resources of a group focus on a problem, the solutions that present themselves are amazing.

4. Build your record.

Parents must be willing to face the reality of their child's abilities!

5. Walk a mile in the other side's moccasins.

Spend sustained time at the school. Volunteer in your child's classroom and other classrooms. Watch the kids on the playground and in the lunchroom. What really goes on inside school? How tired are you at the end of a school day? How tired must the teachers, the aid, the principal, and your child be?

6. Listen actively, especially to the things you do not want to hear.

If you find your temperature rising, disengage your ego from what is happening. Breathe deep. Calmly restate what you heard like this: "I want to understand your position, Ms. Jones. Are you saying _____________?" Then restate what you thought she said, not what you thought she meant.

7. Encourage everyone to love your child, then let them!

If a knowledgeable educator has a different approach or opinion from ours, this does not make her the enemy. Do not gate-keep around those people - they are invaluable, untapped resources.

8. Have a little faith.

Generally, give your child's team some credit for acting in good faith. If they need education, supply it. If you disagree, try to work it out without getting personal. Do not demonize well-intentioned people. Utilize them. Even if they have priorities that you cannot share, they can turn out to be of great help to your child.

Read the complete text of the article: Play Hearts, Not Poker by Jennifer Bollero.

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Your Child's IEP Should Never Be a Gamble

IEP meetings should not turn into a game of nerves with everyone trying to guess who is bluffing, betting or folding on the strength of their guess. An IEP should be a strategic meeting where a talented advocate need not lie about his or her hand, but can play any facts to the child's advantage.

Keep the game fair and in good spirits, when possible. Know what your goals are and work them. Many roads lead to the same place. Many different cards can win the game.

Printer-friendly copy of Play Hearts, Not Poker by Jennifer Bollero.

Meet Jennifer Bollero and read more of her articles.

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