1) Prepare yourself with appropriate uniform (business suit with tie for men, courtroom dressy dress for women) Do not attempt to go into battle in your everyday housedress or garden slacks as this may be interpreted by the "enemy" as a sign of weakness on your part. Make sure hair, makeup and jewelry reflect "success" and "power".
2) Take your notebook, pocket tape recorder, calendar and/or laptop computer to record "minutes" of the meeting. An excellent suggestion for the notebook dividers, visible "LEGAL", "IEP", "SCHOOL BOARD," "DOCTOR" and so forth. (Even if you sit bored silly writing your grocery list under "Legal" they will take you seriously)
1) Confirm all verbal encounters either in person or by phone with a simple note or preferably FAX eg. "Confirming our discussion of this date, we agreed that .... We also agreed that we could objectively measure progress by...and that our next meeting would be at...."
2) Determine your local laws regarding the recording of telephone
conversations and those in person. In Oregon you can tape telephone
calls with only one party's permission, but cannot legally tape meetings
without permission of the other party...you can however, occasionally
take the pocket tape recorder out of your pocket and speak into it eg.
Memo to the file: IEP Legal.... and record your own voice. Store all
tapes in a safe, but easily located place for future transcription and
3) Make sure all correspondence is received by sending certified with
return receipt or by FAX for which your machine will document receipt.
Even with FAX transmissions, I always call up the school secretary and
pretend to be concerned "just to make sure you received all X number of
pages clearly". Then I write the name of the person, date and time of
verification directly on my file copy of the FAX and staple the
transmission log to it before filing. I also use a 3 hole punch and 3
ring binder to keep all these papers together...much simpler for me than
a file cabinet.
4) Log all communications by date/time/subject on a calendar to keep with you. That way in meetings, you can say, "we addressed that on date X, agreed on plan Y to be evaluated on date Z AND today is date Z!"
5) Use your MD to get whatever you want for your child. Almost any
educational accomodation also has a medical significance if only to
relieve the "stress" the child is under. MD's don't like to write
letters, so write the letters for the MD and have him/her sign them. Our
pediatrician (MD, PhD) takes what I have written, scans it into his
computer and reprints it on his letterhead.
1) Volunteer in the classroom...even if only for a one time event such as lining the kids up for vision screening. Make notes of your observations and use them to your advantage. eg. my son was continually coming home with torn clothes, bruises and damaged notebooks, but when I went to school to turn in his homework while he was home sick, I observed that not a single teacher or administrator even stuck his/her head out of an office to monitor the corridors during passing periods !!
2) Listen to what the other kids are saying about your kid. A neighbor
child came up to me and volunteered that he was concerned about my
daughter's feelings because the teachers and principal were putting
their hands up to their mouths, whispering and pointing whenever my
daughter passed in the hallway!
3) Observe the classroom set-up. Is your child seated close to the
chalkboard at your request, but with his/her back to it ? Mine was!
4) How does the teacher teach ? Does the teacher sit at a desk or walk
around the room when talking to the class ? Does the teacher make eye
contact or even notice the students who are not following along ?
Perhaps this teacher is not aware of the body language (restless,
fidgeting) that is communicating boredom...or that the student cannot
5) What are the distractions like from the hallways ? Are students out of class running up and down the halls in tap shoes while others are trying to listen to the teacher ? (I found this to be true at my son's school)
6) Observe the discipline....
7) Observe recess....is it active or sitting in a classroom ?
8) Observe the medication process...is it accurate (correct med/dose)
and timely ?
9) Make a note of how many tablets of each med are left at school and on
what date (back to that calendar again). I have suspecions about a
school secretary with a weight problem and access to the ritalin...it
seems more than 30 tablets disappeared from one student's bottle in
under a week, but the school claims to not be responsible! The secretary
kept claiming the tablets were being dropped on the floor by the student
necessitating a new, clean tablet to be given.
10) Are the children given adequate time to eat their meals ? Nutrition
can really make a difference with behavior as well as medication
1) Do your best to take the emotions out of all contacts (this is SO difficult...even for me!) Remember this is strictly a business deal...it is the business of educating your child.
2) Ask questions....lots of questions ! eg. How do you feel intervention
x will meet our goal of y ? or...I don't understand how you can justify
using Ms. Z as a specialist on this team when she already told us she
has never dealt with diagnosis Q before...could you please explain? And
write down or record the answers.
3) Restate the really stupid stuff they say...Did I hear you correctly
when you said....? Could you have possibly meant...?
4) Practice "outs"... eg. I already have something scheduled that day, let me see if I can cancel it and get back to you. Given that time is of
the essence, I think we should make part A effective today, but I would
like to research part B further, perhaps we could reconvene next week ?
I am not comfortable with that idea...is there any other way to address
5) If you have a pager flip the switch to emit a sound at the time you
feel pressured and excuse yourself leaving the team with a date/time to
reconvene. Even a wristwatch and calendar will work...oops...I have
another appointment in 15 min...I appreciate your help, but it is clear
we just can't get it all done today...Can we meet again at X ?
6) You can also use the bathroom escape...I hope you'll forgive me, but
I must have had too much coffee this morning...I'll be right back...then
go to the restroom scream into the toilet paper if necessary, take 6
deep breaths and return with your best smile!!
7) On the edge of tears (remember your nutrition before engaging in
battle...more potassium will lessen teary potential)...excuse yourself
with the coffee thing...or that you're having trouble with a contact
lens...KEEP TISSUE WITH YOU! Be sure to excuse yourself BEFORE you
become a basket case.
8) Keep a smile on your face and make them wonder what you've been up
9) Take along another adult for "support"...have them keep the meeting on track. Like one of our readers said, don't let them focus on how the paper got lost, keep them focused on the content of the paper.
10) Prepare yourself with lots of papers...and enough copies for each
member of the group (no excuse for them to delay with the copier
machine). Make sure these papers are authoritative in nature...some
research in addition to your correspondence is great.
11) Don't be afraid to have a mini agenda of the things you want to
discuss in that notebook...make sure each is covered and check them off
12) Remember that you have the unique opportunity to focus all of your
energy on your children...while they have several hundred to keep track
of. You know your child best...and don't let them convince you
13) Strategic Withdrawal of Forces: "I don't believe we are
accomplishing anything productive and I do have other things to attend
to....Our next meeting is scheduled for....Who is going to take
responsibility to see that the promised reports are done ? Who is going
to do the psych testing? Who is responsible for the speech testing?
...etc." Determine accountability and adjourn.
Written by Shirley Fitzgerald,RN
Shirley's Home Page
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