The dread started when I received the slip home from Aaron’s school about his first IEP meeting. It said:
___I will attend my child’s IEP meeting on Thursday October 29 at 3:05 pm
___I will not attend my child’s IEP meeting.
How’s that for choice? Then started my bad mood, my grumbling and general poor disposition about this impending meeting.
After a few days immersed in dread, I realized that my attitude was everything. At my work, I often talk to families about communicating with professionals using a positive approach. I use this quote:
“A prickly personality can advance a magnificent cause, but why make it harder?”
I could walk in all pissed off about the lack of choice in the date, or I could take care of myself, connect with others for support, and walk in with an open mind. I decided to adjust my standard: if the educators assembled seemed to care about Aaron and his learning, I would put aside any preconceived notions and biases based on how the meeting was scheduled.
I confided in a few friends about the IEP meeting. It helped to talk about it with others. I made sure I went to yoga class at work at lunch time. Our instructor was kind enough to adjust her session to centre on relaxation and calmness, I left feeling serene. I carried this feeling into the IEP meeting.
On my way home, I stopped at Starbucks and picked up a (dirty) chai latte, which served as my crutch during the meeting. (Sounds silly, but clutching that coffee was a comfort to me). I kept my work clothes on to help with credibility. It seems ridiculous that I feel I have to do this, but I think it helps.
My husband, Mike, (perhaps the most rational man on earth) was there with me. Showing up as a team helped feel not so outnumbered, and we served as moral support for each other. Me a ball of emotion; Mike the voice of reason.
Mike said he had never seen me so calm for a school meeting. I do usually cry (and that’s ok too). I didn’t cry today. I felt prepared, but not a bundle of over-prepared anxiety – which generally includes anticipating what could go wrong, what offensive things people might say and how I would respond. I had prepared myself by doing what I could do to remain open-minded and to dump my biases before I walked into the room.
All the educators there were respectful and engaged. They solicited our feedback and we felt part of the team. They had pre-populated the IEP form, but adjusted it when we told them certain goals were and were not important to us (spelling – no. printing – no. keyboarding – yes. reading – yes).
When we walked out, I felt respected and listened to. Most importantly, I felt as if they cared about my boy and his learning. And that’s all that really matters in the end.
All that dread for nothing (please remind me of this before the next IEP meeting in May).