Dear IEP team members,
I'd like you to have a copy of the e-mail I sent this afternoon to Bud's IEP team - a combination of classroom teachers and special ed staff from the elementary school he is leaving and the middle school he will enter in the fall. It's the kind of letter that every special needs parent wants to be able to write, but - based on what I've heard from parents whose IEP meetings sound more like armed warfare than like collaborative planning sessions - usually can't.
I'm posting it here for two reasons - first, to publicly thank the team that we are so lucky to have, and second, to issue a challenge to people on IEP teams across the country - classroom teachers, special educators, and administrators.
My challenge is this: As you begin the IEP cycle each year, use this letter as an end goal. Start your planning process, structure your meetings, and implement your ideas with the goal that every parent who sits at your table will be able to leave the room and write a letter like this.
I know that it's possible, because I've seen it done, over and over and over again. Like every district everywhere, my district is under-funded. The special ed budget has been cut. The caseload has grown exponentially, but the staffing has not. And yet, because the members of our team approach their work with care and insight - because they are creative - because they are collaborative - because they listen and learn and seek to understand not just who my child is, but also who he might become - they are able to set a high bar, and then help him soar over it.
You can do it, too.
I just wanted to write to follow up on our IEP meeting this afternoon to tell you how fortunate I feel to work with such an outstanding team. I have friends raising children with autism all over the country, and in recent weeks I’ve heard story after story about them donning their battle gear as they entered IEP meetings, only to emerge hours later, deflated and defeated. In contrast, I walked into today’s meeting with a list of points I wanted to make sure we covered, and in every instance – without exception – someone else on the team raised the issue before I had a chance. I truly believe that the plan we have in place for Bud – and the plan you’ve been implementing with him all spring - is fantastic and puts him in the best possible position as he prepares to make the transition to middle school.
This could be an overwhelming and frightening time for Bud, and for me. Instead, because we have the good fortune to work with people like you – insightful, collaborative, forward-thinking people who truly know and respect my son – it’s an exciting time full of possibilities. I imagine that IEP season is exhausting for you. Please know that your work really matters, and that I appreciate everything you do.
All the best,