My favorite benefit from starting this blog, is getting know some of you a little better. I think we all can learn from each other. It brings me the greatest joy to share whatever tips I have learned throughout our journey. I love when all of you share as well!
In November, I wrote the post A Guide to Having a Successful Initial IEP Meeting after attending a meeting to request that my child be tested. As you might remember, the request was more of a demand that took me out of my comfort zone, but because I had evidence to support a need for testing my request was granted. Here is the thing though, although the request for testing was granted, I had no idea where to go from there. Doubt began to fill my mind. What if he does not qualify for an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) or even a 504 (a plan to put in accommodations to support needs).
After publishing my experience, the response was awesome. I heard from some of you about how useful the information was and even about your own experiences with going through the process.
Then something truly amazing happened! I got put in contact with Judy Wells, J & C National Advocates she has helped thousands of families get IEP’s into place for their children across the nation. Her journey started in the 1980’s with her own children, who have since become quite successful. I love speaking with Judy, because she does not think short-term fixes, but long-term.
I had the opportunity to speak to her about what I was experiencing with my son and she helped me come up with what our next steps should be to help get the outcome we want.
The following are the tips Judy shared with me:
Tip # 1: Consult with your pediatrician concerns you might have about your child. Get a diagnoses for child and ask pediatrician if they are willing to write a letter to school stating a need for accommodations. ****Note***** This does not mean that you have to get your child medicated. I spoke with my pediatrician and told him that I wanted to try alternatives first. The following are the alternatives Judy helped me come up with to try :
- Change of diet – Increase healthy fat and leafy greens in diet. The brain is made up of fat. It only makes sense that we feed our brain healthy fat as well. Healthy fats include coconut oil and avocados. Hearty breakfasts are also encouraged. Eggs are good to eat. Try to cut dyes we consume. Dyes raise hyperactivity. Increase fruit intake. Take gluten out from diet.
- Play classical music. Classical and jazz music (instrumental) is proven to help the brain focus. Music gives the brain power, reduce anxiety, can lower blood pressure, and increase relaxation.
- Experiment with color – Some people view and understand things in color. We will start slow on this one. I will carry out this tip by asking him questions. What color is addition? What color is subtraction? What color is the equal sign? This might help him understand math and word problems a little better.
Tip # 2: Request from school, a copy of test results 3-5 days before you are scheduled to meet. This is probably an obvious tip that I would have never thought of on my own. This gives you an opportunity to review results at your own pace. In addition, you will not be blindsided at the meeting.
Tip # 3: Keep a Record – Keep a record of what is going on in the classroom from both what the child and teacher. I have kept every email, voice message, and notes from phone calls with teachers. I would also ask my child daily how his day went (any attitude, trips to principal) and take a note.
Tip # 4: Make a list of accommodations you want in place for your child. I call this list my dream list. Even if you might think they will turn it down, request it. When coming up with accommodations, do not just think about the present, think long-term accommodations you want in place. We came up with a list that for sure want written and in place for the start of third grade as well and even grades to come. I will state again, even if it is accommodation that the teacher is already doing, get it written down so it is in place for the future!
Tip # 5: Have a team that supports you and your child. Do not go into the meeting alone. Take your husband, other family member, or a friend. I took my son’s high needs case manager, his behavior coach, my parent support partner, and had Judy Wells conference called in. It was great having Judy on the phone, because she knows the law and was willing to be the one to put her foot down if needed (remember last meeting I did and it was so uncomfortable). Also by letting the school know that she would be phoned in, it helped things get moving. I got the meeting scheduled before the holiday break, and they made sure to get the results to me before the meeting (both were being questioned). Find the people who support you and your child and bring them with you, believe me it is worth it.
- If at all possible, meet with your support team before going into meeting to discuss possible outcomes to help you be ready. Come up with a plan of action. The more prepared you feel, the more.
So how did the meeting go, you might ask? It was a night and day difference from our first request meeting! I walked in feeling confident. I got the results 3 days before the meeting, so I knew he would qualify. It was stated in results. I had time to review the results with his behavior coach and Judy Wells beforehand. Judy was nice enough to help me come up with a list of accommodations to request for my son. We shared the list of accommodations, and none of them seem impossible. The school was willing to work with us to get the accommodations in place.
Man I walked out of that meeting feeling like super mom. I got my child the accommodations he needs to be successful in school! It is such a great feeling.
If you feel like your child is struggling in school, do not be afraid to get your child the help they deserve. Let me be a part of your team. Remember everyone needs a team. Judy is also an awesome resource! Use all of your resources!