Life with Paige is a wonderful series of do's and re-do's, and plans and...things that are not planned.
I'm a researcher - a studier of information, and sort of a take-charge kind of person when it comes to Paige. I've read so much about her educational rights, and the responsibilities of those who are part of her educational team. I've made presentations, and worked hard to be very involved in her needs.
Occasionally, her medical issues have taken precedent over her developmental goals. Right now, it is very challenging to meet all of her needs. Being in a body cast, probably until the end of March, presents just physical challenges - how do we get her to school, keep her interactive with her peers, etc. I think she's probably a bit more vulnerable to colds and such as she is basically immobile. And we have lots of doctors appointments that we must make.
I think its very important as a parent of any child, but especially a child with exceptional needs, to be conscious that there is not a cookie cutter solution to educating our kids. Their needs are different; their goals are different, and how we meet those is sometimes a series of trial and error and tweaking that never ends.
Going to IEP meetings is always interesting. You never quite know who is going to show up, and who isn't. A collective team of "experts" and me, just the Mom, assemble to decide the basics for Paige's next few months of school.
After a few years of these meetings, I have some tips for the experts when dealing with me.
1) Don't assume my vision for Paige's education is exactly the same as the mother in the meeting before me.
2) Especially don't assume that our game plan is exactly the same as the other 50 or so children with Down syndrome in our school board.
3) Don't come into the room prepared with an IEP already written. I want to brainstorm, to throw around some ideas and situations, and make a collective decision about what to do next.
4) Don't feel as if you have to be defensive to me - I am not there to attack, merely to challenge and do the best for my own child.
5) Let me ask questions - will this or that work, and why or why not?
6) Ask me questions - what is my vision for Paige's future? What are my hopes and goals for her?
7) Make me aware of ALL the resources that are available, not just personnel, but websites, books to read, contacts to make.
One of the most flattering things anyone in our IEP meeting can do for me is to be interested. If I am bringing in a book that I would like you to look at, or making a suggestion that I would like us to explore, it is because I have already read the book, or thought a great deal about the suggestion, and feel that it would be of benefit to Paige, and often, her classmates.
I am, at the very least, an equal team member when it comes to educating my child. My beliefs for her education have changed and evolved a great deal over the course of her school career. I am acutely aware that she is part of an entire group of children that you are trying to educate, and my desire to have her be a part of that group will sometimes be of great benefit to you. I am quite willing to look at the total picture of a classroom, and modify it accordingly not just for the benefit of Paige, but for the benefit of those children who will learn great lessons from Paige.
And last of all, don't even dream that I am going to sign the IEP during the course of our meeting. I want to absorb it, perhaps tweak it, make sure nothing has been forgotten on it, and be fully comfortable with it.
It is my right as a parent to demand this of you, and your responsibility as an educator to provide this to me.