5 Important Tools To Carry Into An IEP Review Meeting.

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Parents, we have almost made it through another year of school! Nightly fights over homework. Almost done. School projects completed, even if thrown together the night before. Or 3 days late. And by you only. Too many lunches packed to count. Admittedly, getting less nutritious as the days click away. We're hitting the home stretch. But with this excitement of spring comes a small amount of stress, because spring season brings...IEP reviews!

I have 4 kids. 3 IEPs. This is no joke, folks. IEPs are no laughing matter. We were part of the fifth largest school district in the nation with very few resources. We almost went to due process in our last full year. You might say, I’m seasoned. Weathered. Or worn.

But due to all this motherly seasoning and aging, there are a few helpful tips I’ve picked up along the way for this necessary event on behalf of my children.

  1. Dress for success. Way back when, when I knew nothing about IEPs, and had only 2 kids under 3, our early intervention program offered a class on what was next for our kids as they officially entered the school district, and their developmental needs would be handed over to this less than empathetic institution. The IEP was heading our naive way. I had no idea what all those acronyms were or why on earth we should be scared and, therefore, must be prepared for this seriousness. Couldn’t tell you one thing that was said, except this: “Show them you mean business by dressing like it.” You may not be an attorney or a doctor. You may or may not be college educated. Who among us has a ton of extra cash? But if you look like you are a professional, they will be more likely to treat you like you are one. It’s harsh. It’s not PC. But it’s the truth. And you are THE professional about your kids. Professionals will more likely show respect and not to try to take advantage of other professionals. Look the part. It’s simple. So do it.
  2. Get an educational advocate. Even if you don’t expect your child’s IEP to be complicated, if you walk into the IEP meeting with an advocate by your side, suddenly you’re not the one who starts to squirm in their seat. Advocates know the law and can help create accommodations and know particular ways to word things that can help you get what your kid needs. They can also help you feel and look more prepared, more professional and help you stay calm. You do not have to pay an attorney for this! Many advocates are free.

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  3. Stay calm. It’s all so emotional. Our children are our life. When we start to feel the school professionals are not listening to us and willing to accomodate our children’s special needs, it’s really hard to stay calm. But if we start to lose our cool, we start to lose our accolades. We just look like a crazy parent. We might indeed be crazy parents, but we don’t want to appear that way to the school. We want to appear like we know what we’re talking about. We want them to hear us. Make it so they want to listen.
  4. Get an Independent Evaluation. This is a bit more tricky, but an EXTREMELY helpful tool. Schools do their own evaluations. But their evaluations are based on academics. Typically, schools are not trained in trauma. Trauma has had such a huge impact on our kid’s development that it’s important to have a professional evaluate them based on that. These are usually done by neuro psychologists. Neurological being key. Our kids neurology has been altered due to trauma, thereby affecting the way they learn. Schools are not equipped to test this. These evaluations are very expensive. However, once your school gives you their evaluation, if you do not agree with it’s findings due to insufficiency or other reasons, you can get an independent evaluation, and the school is required to pay for it (although will probably try to get out of it). That’s right! Read about the law here: Independent Educational Evaluation.
    If we start to lose our cool, we start to lose our accolades. We just look like a crazy parent.
  5. Focus on your child’s needs, not school resources or teachers. This is where staying calm comes in big and why the advocate is so important. They can help you stay focused. Many, many schools are under-resourced. We all know that. Teachers can’t do it all. Schools can’t be expected to fix everything about our children. But the law is the law. And where there is a will and a need, there is a way. And IEPs can go with you wherever you go. So write it accordingly. When push comes to shove, the school must follow the law and what is written in the IEP. They WILL come up with the resources.

Keeping in mind that each school, district and state can “interpret” the law (if only I had $ every time I heard that one), don’t give up. But don’t let school rob your joy of being a parent either. I failed big time here. We’ve since moved on to a new school, district and state where we found a huge difference in our kid’s school experience and therefore mine. But I allowed the previous school to have power over me they never should have. I wish I walked away with my head held higher and the confidence that school is not all the system wants us to think it is. It’s a tool. That is all. School is not everything. Family is everything. We’ve got that covered. So bring on those IEPs, and know your child is in great hands with you by there side.

Are you approaching IEP review season? What have you learned from past experiences. What could you add to this list? Share in the comment section below this post.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.