You’ve Got This! New blog designed to support parents new to special education

We all have a story.  Suzy, a local mom, gives an inside look into her story and journey through the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) process.

Suzy reflected back to her child’s very first IEP meeting.  She felt a swarm of many different emotions.  The whole process seemed scary. Even though she works in education, Suzy shared that she still needed the process and results explained in a way that was easy to understand.  

Suzy knew children learned in different ways, yet was in shock about the situation and felt guilty.  She began to ask herself questions, like many other parents.

Was I not working hard enough with my child?  

Did I drop the ball?  

Did I not take her education seriously enough?  

Was the teacher disappointed in me?  

She didn’t realize her child’s learning was such an issue.  She became nervous about the unknown future, navigating accommodations and instruction, and dealing with her child’s frustration.   “Sometimes as a parent you blame yourself, but don’t blame yourself.  That’s not helpful.”

Suzy explained, “Your idea of special education services might not match the reality of what services can be provided through special education. I knew special education services were much more inclusive, but I still wondered, “What does this mean for my child, her education, and her future?”

Suzy’s advice is simple.  “Just move forward. And keep asking questions.

Suzy realized that ALL types of families and kids have disabilities.  It doesn’t mean your child isn’t smart or isn’t going to be successful in school.

As she reflects, she can see the positive that has come from her journey.  Her child has developed good relationships with both her special and general education teachers and developed new habits.  She has to learn how to work hard, and she got the help she needed to reach her potential.

“My perspective has changed since our first IEP meeting.”  

Suzy explained that even if there are struggles, she doesn’t worry as much because she knows the outcome doesn’t have to be negative. She feels more confident in the school system helping her child and being responsive to her needs.

Suzy shared her best advice for other parents: “You are your child’s best advocate.”  

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions and have things explained.  
  • It can be easy to feel intimidated, so ask “What does this mean?” or say, “I need to hear that again.”  
  • Talk to others and bring someone to the meeting for support.
  • When you go to IEP meetings, it is important to be in an emotional state where you can focus and participate. Take time if you need to think when making important decisions.

Her final reflections?  Suzy’s idea of intelligence has changed as she realizes and sees first hand how everyone has different strengths. She has seen her child’s strengths shine in different areas that she didn’t recognize as much before.   

“My child has reinforced that intelligent kids learn in many different ways.”

Great advice, Suzy! Moms, dads, guardians, family members…You’ve Got This! Central Rivers Area Education Agency (AEA) and your local school district are here to help. For more information, contact Amy Knupp, Executive Director of Special Education.

(You’ve Got This! is a new series of blog posts designed to provide advice, support, and guidance to those navigating the K-12 special education process. For more information, contact Kelsey Baker, School Psychologist.)