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 IEP's 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 we have Nicole Black. She is a recovering elementary school teacher and a mom to three kids, one of which has a rare genetic condition. She runs coffee and Carpool. This is where she helps busy parents on the go raise kinder kids, build stronger families and helps their kids be the best versions of themselves. You can get her nine tips all parents need to know and the printable checklist. We'll leave the link below this video. Today's video. She's going to show us how to help with the emotional part of an IEP meeting. Let's take a watch and see what Nicole has to say.
Nicole Black: Hello, my name is Nicole Black. I am the founder of coffee and Carpool and raising kind kids where we help the busy parents just manage the everyday craziness while also raising our kids to be kinder to each other, to other, to their classmates and their peers. We'd work on bullying prevention and bully proofing our kids and building a stronger family identity, but we also talk about special education needs and kids who have different abilities because it's near and dear to my heart. My eldest daughter has a rare genetic condition. It's an invisible disability, if you will. And she actually is missing her irises. She doesn't have the color part that we all have. And with that comes other complications. So she has had an IEP since she was three years old. She is now 12 going into seventh grade, which is crazy to me. And we've done this every single year.
Nicole Black: Once, sometimes twice a year. We have moved three times since she started having her IEP. So we've had an IEP in California, Illinois and Massachusetts and they all do things a little bit differently. But there are some universal truths to make it a little bit easier because when you walk into an IEP meeting, whether it is your first IEP meeting or your 17th it's emotional. It is hard. It even when you, it's like the greatest outcome and everything works perfectly for you and for your child. There was like this knot in the middle of your stomach and it just can feel so intense. And so I want to give you a couple tips to help alleviate some of that so that you feel a little bit more prepared. You can walk through it a little bit easier and it's not quite so traumatic. You can't take all of it away because I still feel it, I still IEP days, man, my stomach just oooh the stress of it and the anxiety of it.
Nicole Black: So it doesn't go away. But we can reduce it. We can limit them. So the first thing I want to share with you is when you walk in, they're going to give you a big stack of paper. It's your parent rights, things you need to know and it's a lot of Mumbo jumbo, a lot of you know, very fancy words and it can be really intimidating and you have to sign that you received it and that you understand everything in it, but you're given five seconds to look it over. So ask for these rights ahead of time before the meetings say that you want to read them before you come in, you're gonna find nuggets in there. I went over at one time with a fine tooth comb and I actually even didn't even do it from me and my daughter. I did it for a girlfriend.
Nicole Black: She was asking me a question and I didn't know the answer. And so I carefully read through it. I found things like, you don't have to sign the IEP if you don't agree with it or if you want some time to go over it, you can record the IEP meeting if you give them certain amount of time. Warning and you do it in writing, read through it and find the things that are going to be helpful for you. You can bring in an advocate with you with certain, like if you let them know ahead of time, there are things that you can do before to prep if you have these rights. So ask for them before your first IEP meeting. The second thing you need to know that really helps me is I'm an ex elementary school teacher. I was in my fair share of IEP meetings before I became a mom.
Nicole Black: And what do you need to know is that educators will be go into it because we love kids, okay? 90% 98% of us go into it because we love kids. We genuinely want to see them succeed. So go into this IEP meeting knowing that these educators who get paid very little for what they do are there because they love their profession. They love children and they want to see your kid succeed. Going in knowing that puts you on the same side, like literally you are fighting the same battle you want. What's best for your child. They may come at it in a different direction or have different ideas or maybe they're seeing it from a different perspective, but they are, they want what's best for your child. If you go in with that assumption, it's going to be a lot smoother. But with that being said, you also need to know that you are a part of this IEP team.
Nicole Black: You are a valuable member. All of these educators and they're great at what they do and they are. They've had years of experience and they have, you know, maybe some letters after their name. You are the expert in your child. You know what your child needs and they need to hear what you know. So if they're suggesting something and you say, wait a second, that's not going to work and I can tell you why they're going to listen to you, they should listen to you. They have to listen to you. You are not there as a bystander. We're kind of watching it on this meeting. You are a valuable part of this team and you have a say. And if you don't like the outcome, you don't have to sign the IEP. You can go through mediation. So assume that they want what's best, but go in knowing also that you are your child's voice.
Nicole Black: You can do it in a kind way. You can say, Oh, I'm so sorry that's not going to work for my child and here's why. But you can still get your point across and make sure your child's needs are met. Also, when there's an IEP, usually because there's so many moving parts to how many people's schedules need to be rearranged to make sure everybody's there. They back to back to back the IEP meetings and after a long day of IEP meetings, that can get kind of tedious for the people who are in all of them. And sometimes they forget that they're talking about a real kid. They're talking about your kid, your baby, right? So sometimes what I do is I bring in a picture of my daughter. She's still young enough where she doesn't accompany me to her IEP meetings. That may change soon as she's getting older, but I bring in a picture and I say, this is my daughter Addison.
Nicole Black: This is what she loves. She loves to dance and to sing and to bake and she's a girl scout and she loves, loves, loves reading. This is what you need to know about her. She's a real kid and having that picture sometimes is just the reminder that these educators need that when they're talking about all of the things she can't do and all the things that she's going to struggle with. She's a real kid. I'm a real mama and that kind of stings a little bit. Even if I know it's true that she can't do these things, they come at it from a different perspective with hopefully a little bit more grace and a little bit more kindness because they see the picture of her smiling back at them. That's especially true if this is your first IEP meeting or if it's new administration or if you're switching schools, bring in a picture of your child.
Nicole Black: The other thing I always bring in as I bring in sugar, sugar can just alleviate a lot of stress in the room. So I bring in either a plate of cookies or I go grab some doughnut holes at the local donut shop and I put it on the table and I say, ladies and gentlemen, help yourself. We, I'm sure you've been doing this for a while. We all need a little sugar pick me up. It is always appreciated and it's not a peace offering of sorts, but it's kind of, it just breaks the ice and it makes people all kind of, it just, Oh, I tell you, take a breath. Okay. She's a real person. She knows that we need sugar and it's just, it kind of makes everything a little bit sweeter. And that is what I try to do at every single meeting.
Nicole Black: I just had her IEP meeting last year. I brought in some doughnut holes, left them on the table as I walked out the door and I saw them all like diving in for it, which is fantastic because they had more meetings right after mine. So those are just a few tips that I have for you. I have a bunch more and a checklist. Be Happy to share it with you. And once again I am Nicole Black coffee and Carpool and I'm raising kind kids and I will put the link below or up, I'm not sure where and you can go and grab those other resources. Thanks so much and good luck with your first IEP meeting. You're gonna you got this, you're gonna nail it or if it's your second or 10th you got this.
Liz Weaver: Thank you Nicole for sharing those really important tips with us. This video has been part of an IEP answers initiative, an initiative to educate parents about IEP's from a variety of viewpoints. We've created this because this is an important subject that so many parents need to understand. Please make sure to share the video and please use the Hashtag IEP answers so we can find you on social media. If you would like to be a 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 us form at www.learningsuccesssystem.com and put IEP answers in the subject line. Thanks again for taking the time to watch today and in case no one else has told you, 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.
Nicole Black is a recovering elementary school teacher and a mom to three kids, one of which has a rare genetic condition. She runs Coffee and carpool where she helps busy parents on the go raise kinder kids, build stronger families, and help their kids be the best versions of themselves. You can get her 9 Tips all Parents Need to Know (and the printable checklist) at https://coffeeandcarpool.com/