Liz Weaver: Hello and welcome to IEP answers. I'm Liz weaver of learning success and I'll be your host for this exciting video series. IEP answers is an initiative to help you understand individualized education plans, otherwise known as I e ps and this video series you will hear from educational professionals and parents alike giving you a well-rounded perspective from a variety of viewpoints. This information will help you determine if an IEP is needed at all and if so, how to work with the school to design an IEP that is a scaffolding to building a better student rather than a crutch for them to lean on in today's video, Emily Denbow Morrison an expert educator, seasoned writer and loving teacher Emily Denbow Morrison writes for change in American schools, a lifelong advocate for children. Emily has taught high school English since 2001 and has loved, encouraged and supported thousands of students. Her work centers on helping educators build a strong, loving relationship with students, caregivers, and colleagues. She lives in Maine with her handsome husband, three beautiful children and her labradoodle named Benny. Emily's video is going to give us some tips for advocating for your child in an IEP meeting.
Emily Morrison: Hi, my name is Emily Morrison. I'm a high school English teacher and I have 18 years of experience going to IEP meetings with parents and special educators and have a few tips on how to best advocate for your children. The first is to say thank you. Special educators are the most undervalued under-recognized educators in our profession today, and so often they have mountains of paperwork, IEP meetings, testing, and they clearly love children or they wouldn't be doing this job. So saying thank you when you begin a meeting with them really does help them feel appreciated because it's a hard job. Second, when to consider getting a referral or a test for your child, this can be a really hard decision because oftentimes learning differences present themselves in behavioral ways, particularly ADHD, dyslexia, processing deficits, reading numeracy issues. Children can appear as if they don't want to learn.
Emily Morrison: It can't focus, they won't pay attention. They're easily distracted, they're not instructions, they won't stop moving. They can't get organized, they don't want to read or they don't want to write. Often this behavior can distract parents and teachers from the very real cognitive impairment that's going on inside a child. So when you see one or two or three of these red flags, these may be normal. Every child, every learner struggles with paying attention or motivation. But when a child has most, if not all of these red flags popping up at the same time, usually this signals that there is a significant learning impairment going on. Talk to your doctor, talk to your child's teachers, talk to other adults who understand your child well and if they're seeing the same things and share the same concerns, it's a good idea to get them tested. If they are diagnosed with a learning difference and you are at that initial IEP meeting, chances are you're feeling really overwhelmed because this is all new to you and I think it's a good idea, especially in these initial IEP meetings to bring another adult with you, another family member, significant other or friend who can be another set of ears.
Emily Morrison: They can take notes, they can ask questions, they can hear the things that you might be missing because again, you're really worried about the outcome. Having a list is another way to make sure that your concerns will be addressed. You might think the teachers would be put off by parents bringing in a list of concerns or questions, but actually it's the opposite. We really appreciate it when parents bring in what they're most worried about because this helps us focus on specific areas that we can help your child. It also streamlines this process. We have a sub covering our class. You probably are taking time off work to have this meeting, so there's only a small window of time that we can discuss your child and having a list of your questions and concerns really does help move things along. Also, when you bring your child into the meeting, it helps us get a better picture of what they're struggling with when they can speak up and tell teachers, this approach didn't really work for me.
Emily Morrison: I feel like if I had it written down or if I had the book on tape children know better than anyone what they're struggling with. So bringing your child with you really does help us get a better picture of what's going on. Talking about what you see at home, what are their work habits? Do they spend five hours working on a math assignment? Do they spend all night trying to get 20 pages of reading done? Are they watching TV and playing video games and everyone thinks they're working? These are things that actually do help us if they're not even trying their homework. It actually shows a level of frustration that we need to be aware of. So sharing what's going on on your end is really important. Also, when you go to an IEP meeting, there may be teachers there that you want to talk to about your child's struggles in their classes.
Emily Morrison: Make sure that if you are talking to a teacher who you feel could be doing a better job at helping your child out, that you're still respectful. It's natural to be frustrated and it's natural to get emotionally invested in making sure your child has the best education possible. But when you make this into a personal attack or it comes off as sort of aggressive or offensive, anyone is going to go on the defensive and it can stall conversations out. It can prevent us from moving forward. So just being mindful of how you talk to the other teachers and special educators because again, it's really important to establish an atmosphere of respect. There may be people that you want to talk to that are not at the meeting. Make sure that you can have either an email or a progress report or some sort of written update from a teacher who you feel like it would be really important for you to talk to.
Emily Morrison: Sometimes not everybody can be there. So just keeping those lines of communication open, when is the next meeting, who should I email? It's really vital that parents and teachers communicate. The number one determining factor in a child's success is parental involvement. And number two is teacher involvement. So when parents and teachers are both talking about how to help their children, good things happen. The last piece of advice is to stay positive. So often we can lose sight of the child in this process and it can feel like IEP meetings are solely about focusing on what they're struggling with or what needs improving. And there are so many strengths and positives that we forget to mention. So talk about what they're good at. Talk about the areas that you've seen real growth and make sure that your child hears you saying these nice things because children are more than their learning differences and they need to know that. So making sure that you end on a positive note and you know what you want to do moving forward. These are really important to help your son or daughter deal with their learning difference and ultimately have a very successful positive outcome with our education. Best of luck. I hope you found these tips helpful and onward and upward.
Liz Weaver: Thank you, Emily, for those tips. This video has been part of the IEP Answers initiative an initiative to better educate parents about IEPs from a variety of viewpoints. We've created this because it is an important subject that so many parents need to understand. Please make sure to share the video and use the Hashtag #IEP answers so we can find you on social media. If you would like to be part of IEP Answers initiative and share your story or expertise on the subject, you can get in touch with us by using the contact form at www.learningsuccesssystem.com and put IEP Answers in the subject line. Thank you for watching and sharing and a case no one else has told you yet. Today, you are an amazing parent. I appreciate you for showing up and doing the work it takes to embrace your child's brilliance and unleash their potential. I'm Liz weaver from learning success and I'll see you in tomorrow's video.
About Emily Denbow Morrison, M.Ed.
An expert educator, seasoned writer, and loving teacher Emily Denbow Morrison write for change in American schools. A lifelong advocate for children, Emily has taught high school English since 2001 and has loved, encouraged, and supported thousands of students. Her work centers on helping educators build strong, loving relationships with students, caregivers, and colleagues. She lives in Maine with her handsome husband, three beautiful children, and labradoodle named Benny.
Excerpt from an upcoming book, Teach Like You Love Them (And Mean It)
According to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs belonging and esteem are second and third-tier psychological needs, but I think Mr. Maslow made a mistake. Feeling connected to others and proud of ourselves is essential to human growth and development. Loving others and ourselves is a level one need, and if we want to be truly transformative teachers, then we need to address this deficit head-on with our students.
Once you know something you can’t unknow it, and I know America’s children need more love. It’s not that teachers don’t feel loved — it’s that we’re too afraid to show it.