5 Game-Changing Attitudes To Take Into IEP Meetings.

Author of 5 books, podcaster, parent trainer, husband and father.

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email
You know how this goes, especially if you're fostering or have adopted a child with special needs: The dreaded IEP meeting! The last thing you need is another defeat. But does it really have to go this way?

Kristin nearly dropped the phone when my son’s resource teacher called out of the blue one sunny afternoon. “Could you make sure you feed Andre every morning before he comes to school!” she asked abruptly. Kristin was dumbfounded. She managed to say the words, “Andre receives a balanced breakfast every morning.” A moment of silence on the other end. “Well, he comes in to my class every morning claiming he’s hungry and that you don’t give him breakfast,” the teacher replied.

After several minutes of back and forth conversation, Kristin finally asked how long this had been going on. “Well, he’s come in and complained about being hungry for the past several weeks,” she replied. “And why didn’t you call me?” Kristin asked. “Well, I’ve just been giving him granola bars and snacks that I keep in my desk drawer and that seems to satisfy him.”

Oh, I’m sure it does, Kristin thought to herself. And that’s precisely why he’s telling you he’s hungry.

It was pretty obvious, at that moment, that we needed to call an IEP meeting, quickly. As a result of trauma sustained early on in his life, our son has major food issues. He could have the biggest meal of all and he would tell you he’s starving an hour after eating. We thought we had made this clear to his teacher, but it was clear we needed to get back in the same room with her.

We were both so angry that we almost came unglued that evening at home. We wanted to march into the meeting and let this teacher have it. I wanted her fired. How dare she do that to us! How dare she let this go on for weeks and not call us! We stomped around our house, ranting and raving. We went to bed, still fuming. But the next morning, when it came time for the meeting, we decided to change our attitude.

Changing the game.

It’s easy to let our emotions get the best of us. After all, these are our children we’re talking about. We brought them into our homes with love. We want the best for them. We believe in them. And nothing is going to stop us. That’s precisely why it’s critical that we enter IEP meetings, or parent-teacher conferences, with a new attitude. Doing so is a game-changer for our children, and their education.

After years of walking into hundreds of these meetings, here are 5 attitudes we’ve learned to carry in with us…

  1. We’re on the same team. This is number 1 for a reason. It tends to function like an umbrella over the entire experience. When you walk in with a “same-team” attitude, it rains down peace on just about everything you’ll talk through. It will help you view the teachers and administrators with the right perspective.
  2. Crazy NEVER wins. If you walk into an IEP meeting guns blazin’, belligerent, or rude, your child’s need gets lost. The reason is simple. When crazy is speaking, people hear and see crazy. They don’t hear or see the real need! I know you’re passionate. I know these meetings can be frustrating. But your spirit and your tone determine so much of the outcome. Crazy never wins!
  3. Collaborate and listen. Okay, I’ll be honest. I haven’t been able to get Ice Ice Baby out of my head for the past week. And now, you won’t either! 🙂 In all honesty, though, walk in with a spirit of collaboration. Remember #1- “We’re on the same team.” Tell yourself, as you walk up to the school entrance, “Keep my ears open, use my words cautiously, and walk in with a goal to create better for my child.”
  4. Kind but firm. By all means, enter calmly and with kindness, but be firm. This is your child you’re talking about. If the discussion begins to go downhill, or you sense that your words are falling on deaf ears, repeat yourself. Restate your position and your requests, but be kind, stay calm, and remain firm. Remember #2- Crazy NEVER wins!
  5. I’m supported. The day we entered the IEP meeting with my son’s resource teacher, we took our support team with us. We had his therapist, our therapist, a close friend of ours, and our post-adoptive service provider sitting on our side of the conference room table. We really didn’t have to say anything during the meeting. The mere presence of these people spoke louder than any of our words could. The teachers and administrators could see how real my son’s special need was. You may not be able to do this but if you can, and if you have a team like this, take them with you to the meeting. Even if you have 1 or 2 people from your support community, take them with you. The extra voices are valuable.

Life-long partnership.

Look at it this way: Your attitude in your child’s IEP meeting today, impacts his or her future tomorrow. You are working hard to receive the services your child needs to succeed but, you are also forming a life-long partnership with teachers, guidance counselors and principals. Or at least, that should be your focus. It’s been several years since we’ve had children at that particular elementary school in our town, but every time we see one of their principals or a former teacher our son had, the conversation is rich and the spirit is cordial. We walked away from our time at that school loving our experience, and loving all of the faculty.

Your goal must be peace. It must be partnership. That’s the only way your child will succeed, but that’s the only way his teacher will succeed in leading him.

Have you had a difficult IEP meeting lately? What have you personally learned? Share in the comment section.

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email
Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.