You want to know what a mama bear protecting her cubs looks like? Just watch a mom entering an IEP meeting and you will see…only a bear might be a little gentler.
Seriously, though. Anyone who has navigated the IEP (Individual Educational Plan) process knows that it can not only be stressful, but also emotionally draining. It often feels like you are entering into a battle, a fight for your child’s access to accommodations that will help them succeed.
I have two children who were born with hearing loss, a freshman and eighth grader. We have attended many IEP meetings, to say the least. I’ve left some of them in tears, but through the years I’ve developed a game plan that allows me to feel victorious.
It was a shift in the way I approached it. Instead of viewing the school team as my adversaries, I embraced them as my team mates. Rather than just talking about goals tied to a diagnosis on a paper, I shifted to speaking in “child first” language.
And, it worked. We built a collaboration and approached the plan as a road map.
Here’s the way I shifted my approach with my child’s IEP team.
Before our meeting begins, I want to share with you a few things about my child. I know we are going to discuss things like preferential seating, FM systems, and surround-sound units. We will address back-up hearing aid/implant batteries and create a plan for equipment failures. Closed captioning and audiovisual aids will be on the list of things we cover.
And we will agree on whether or not my daughter is going to need extra time for test-taking and if she will be provided advanced copies of classroom notes.
All of the things we cover are necessary to ensure my child’s educational success, and I appreciate your attention to details.
But, there are a few things I want you to know before we discuss all these accommodations.
I want everyone to take a moment and remember my child is also a typical kid who doesn’t have typical hearing.
She’s more than her cochlear implant and hearing aid.
She is so much more than a diagnosis of hearing loss.
She’s funny. She’ll belly laugh until she cries at a good joke.
She’s an athlete. She’s never met a game she doesn’t like to play.
She loves being outside and would spend all day skateboarding or riding her scooter if you let her.
She is obsessed with books. Turn your back for a second, and you will catch her with her nose between pages. A voracious reader, she’s likely to finish a novel on the same day she checks it out from the library.
In most ways, she’s a pretty typical teen. Fashion. Music. Friends.
Although she beats to her own drum. Maybe it stems from knowing what it feels like to have to work a little harder, she often roots for the underdog.
She’s kind and a good friend.
Mostly, she’s a good-hearted kid who wants to be accepted, understood, and included.
She might ask you to repeat a question more than once; she might not acknowledge you the first time you tell her something; she might not hear you correctly.
She will say, “Huh?”and “What’d you say?” often.
Please don’t get frustrated, simply repeat it. Because listening is hard work.
Don’t mistake “hearing” with “understanding” because they are entirely different things. Most of the time, she is trying her best, but sometimes will just need a break.
I know this IEP team cares about my child’s well-being. I always head into these meetings optimistic and ready to work alongside you…towards a common goal.
I trust we want the same thing; this meeting is designed to ensure we all champion for my daughter’s success.
Sharing with you the other stuff that will not be part of this IEP meeting, though, is just me trying to be a typical mom.
For I am a mom who, in addition to the necessary accommodations, wants everyone to know my child is so much more than hearing loss. So much more.
Now, let’s get started on this plan!