***Posted Written by Laura Lane, Secretary for WSPA***
Over the summer, I try to take time to reflect on the previous school year and take to heart any new lessons I learned. Some of the lessons from my previous years that I still reflect upon include-
Know the current status of the student before you try to make light conversation with the parent as you wait for the meeting to begin.
Early in my career, I thought I was prepared for the upcoming meeting with a parent where the goal was to get consent for a re-evaluation. I had taken the time to look at the past testing results and had a good idea of the student’s grades from consulting the district grade management system. Both the parent and I were early for the meeting so I thought I would inquire as to how the student was doing, expecting to hear that the parent was pleased with the progress and had no major concerns to be addressed through the reevaluation process. Instead, the parent began discussing the child’s current health and it was clear that the student was in some dire medical situation that I had not known about. Not knowing was my responsibility and I now try hard to make sure I know the current story for all students.
A second lesson learned was remembering that the student you are working with today may be a very different student from their previous years. This is especially true with degenerative diseases.
This student had a parent that was increasingly upset with the school as the amount of related service times were reduced. The parent was upset that both the OT and PT were no longer recommending direct service and were instead recommending that they serve a consultative role only. The parent came to the IEP meeting and began by asking if she could share something. She then pulled out a photo album that contained pictures of the student as a toddler and preschooler that could walk, grasp, sit, and eat unaided. The parent was desperately trying to hold on to those times. The meeting took on a different note at that point and although the IEP proposal was the same, the presentation shifted to explaining what would be happening and why it would still meet the student’s needs.
Another lesson learned was that being a parent makes it so much harder to understand the school perspective. The IEP team was discussing the behavior of a student with the parent and proposing a behavior plan that included positive supports as well as some reduced consequences for physical aggression. The parent was upset that there would be any consideration of consequences as the student’s disability is often related to a reduced ability to interpret social cues. Trying to explain why learning that some behavior does result in a consequence was difficult. At that point, the parent looked at the IEP team and commented that none of us had children and could never understand what it was like. I have tried to keep that perspective in mind as discipline issues and other disagreements with parents have arisen. I do not believe that now that I have children of my own that my perspective has changed, but it was a good reminder that a parent feels protective of their child, even when the school is proposing a good solution to a problem.
I hope everyone has had a chance to reflect and learn as well.