Be a Winning Team

It’s Super Bowl Sunday, let’s talk football. I recently read an IEP for a friend and I was dumbfounded. My friend and her son had been blindsided by their IEP team. In football the offensive tackle protects the quarterback. In special education an IEP protects the child. It is the responsibility of the IEP team to draft an IEP that includes accommodations and services to help the child succeed. In this case the team put in no effort and the child was thrown onto the field only to be quickly tackled and shutdown.

There is a quote in the movie The Blind Side that says, “I’ve lived here my whole life and never been to this neighborhood. Don’t worry I’ve got your back.” It was the first IEP meeting for this mother and she was new to the whole process. She went in full of hope that her son’s “team” was going to protect him. First IEP meetings are emotionally draining. You go in desperate for help and expect this “team” to have your child’s blind side. In this case the team failed miserably.

I don’t understand why an IEP team would go into a meeting not caring if they came out a winner. It is up to every “player” on that team to work together toward the same goal – success for the child. Often times there is disagreement on the team about exactly what it is that the child needs. It is up to the team though to come together to reach a positive outcome. This involves compromising, respecting each other, and hard work. Sometimes an attorney needs to be called in when the team reaches a standstill. Football legend Vince Lombardi once said, “Football is a great deal like life in that it teaches that work, sacrifice, perseverance, competitive drive, selflessness and respect for authority is the price that each and everyone of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” The same holds true for IEP meetings, they are an awful lot of hard work and the result is only as good as the effort the team puts into it.

Each and every IEP meeting must be “played” differently. Staff should not go in expecting to use the same set of accommodations and services as they did at their last meeting. There is no standard play in the playbook that is going to ensure a win every time. Each meeting is going to be different and needs to be dealt with accordingly. The same holds true for parents. As a parent you can not go into an IEP meeting expecting to get what the last kid got.

School staff sit through a lot of these meetings and it is understandable that they get worn out. The parent only has to sit through one. Understand however, that the parent is the caregiver of that child every day and they too are worn out. The law states that all children on an IEP must have an annual review. This involves assembling the worn out staff and the worn out parent. If the meeting goes well and the IEP is accepted every one wins. If the team does not give it their 100 percent effort and the IEP is not accepted another meeting will most likely be called. A team that is already worn out does not want to go into overtime. So why not do it right the first time, or at least try to. Just as the best football teams win, so too do the best IEP teams.

Happy Super Bowl Sunday. Go Pats.

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