IEP… I Do’s Building a Viable Home-School Relationship – It’s like a Marriage
My friend, Carmen, put it best: “Working to build a school relationship is a lot like a marriage. It takes work. You have to communicate. You will not always agree with each other. For heaven sakes, do you always agree with your spouse? Do you do what they say? And do you often have unmatched expectations? Of course you do! But you find a way to make it work for the benefit of your family and your children. The same is true in building a strong home-school support family to nurture your child’s success.
I am well aware that this will strike a nerve with parents. I have to say that Carmen has a point. When I reflect on the past seven years of my child’s path, from 3 years old until almost 10, she is on spot!
I don’t have all the answers but I do believe that there are “best practices” that help parents and educators to better communicate and support students. It truly is a marriage that often starts at age 3 when a child enters the ESE program and extends until they age out at 22. So, here is what I have learned from some of the best professionals and most successful parents:
The Contract Dreams for the Future:
First, I have to confess that I am a fan of public education. I shake a big pom-pom because I believe in an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for our son. The plan is mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Here is the “real deal” on it – it’s only as good as the home-school bond. You have got to walk down the aisle as equal partners and be willing to work together to bring the IEP to fruition. The signatures on the IEP symbolize the verbal, “I Do’s” of a marriage.
In order to build a viable Plan, the IEP family needs to identify realistic goals.
One Plan for All – Marriages Made in Heaven?:
Not!!! They’re an earthbound “work in progress!” This remains the same for the IEP process. What “fits” well for one, may require alterations for another. For example, just because another student requires 1-1 assistance doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for your child.
The Dating Game: Sport or Good Planning?
Compatibility can make or break a marriage! That’s the role of dating! Don’t wait until your meeting at the IEP altar to touch base and monitor your child’s progress with the other members of your IEP Family. Two way communication works! (i.e., daily/weekly planner notes, email, conferences, phone calls, etc.).
Gotta Have a Wedding Planner:
Would you really invest in a wedding without doing research on best practices? The same is true in planning your child’s future. I have not always agreed with the team. If you can – get an outside opinion. It helped my husband and I understand the school’s view and we gained new ideas.
The Bridal Party – Calling in all Troops!
No woman is going to have a union without her BFF’s. The same is true for IEP’s. You have the right to invite therapists, family and friends who also have a vested interest in your child’s success. Please….no Wedding Crashers!! Let your School Family know ahead of time that your Guest List has expanded so that seating can be accommodated! Participation makes the IEP successful.
Save the Date Cards and Invitations:
The culmination of any wedding event is getting all stakeholders to sign, “I do” on the dotted line. Good marriages produce successful partnerships. You don’t necessarily need a “pre-nup” but you may consider outlining your expectations of what you want to cover in an IEP. This could be in the form of a written outline, a phone call before the meeting, or a “meeting-before-the meeting.” I have found this to be the best route to an “alter” bound relationship.
When you marry someone, you become united with the entire family! It’s your choice, but it may not be everyone else’s. Challenges are bound to crop up within the IEP family. However, if you really love someone, you will do everything to make it work. The same is true with advocating for your child.
More IEP Help
- Advocacy: What Does That Word Mean to You?
- Parents Working Together How Parents Can Work Together to Help Their Child With Their Education
- Family-School Collaboration Focusing on Quality of Life for All
- How can parents prepare for an IEP Meeting? (Part 1)
- Pre- IEP Worksheet
- IEP Meeting Overwhelm? How to Avoid It!
- Rock Your Next IEP: Tips for a Successful IEP Meeting
- Big Picture of Parent Participation in an IEP Meeting
- Beyond the IEP Team: 6 Tips for Parent Participation at School
- Should My Child Attend the IEP Meeting?
- Calm Your Nerves – Know What To Expect At An IEP Meeting
- The Importance of S.M.A.R.T IEP Goals
This post originally appeared on our January/February 2013 Magazine