No one likes IEP (Individualized Education Program) meetings. If you have ever been to an IEP meeting at a school, then you know they are exhausting, long, laborious, emotional and sometimes, they are contentious. When the student has dyslexia it adds a whole layer of myths and fallacies that usually have to be explained away – by the parent or their representative. These parents are often perceived as ‘that parent’ who is being unreasonable or perhaps asking for things they are not entitled to. But parents of students with dyslexia go through quite a bit of turmoil trying to make sure their child learns to read and spell. So, what is really going on the other side of the IEP table?
Parents are faced with an avalanche of information, and misinformation, about dyslexia.
If you have ever googled dyslexia then you know that what you get is everything from dyslexia isn’t real to you can cure dyslexia with colored lenses to companies selling computer programs that teach reading in less than 4 hours to you have to use a specific approach or else. Each of these suggestions is supported by some kind of research and if you are not trained in what is good research and what is bad research, then who do you believe?
Then imagine mentioning that your child is struggling with reading and spelling to a neighbor who then empathizes with you because their child also struggled, and then they proceed to tell you what you ‘have to do’ all without knowing a thing about your child’s specific struggles.
Finally, the parent mentions dyslexia to the school and are told they are either over-reacting or dyslexia isn’t real or the school is already doing what they can do. Who in the world are they supposed to believe? That is what is happening on the other side of the table. The parents are trying to protect their child amid a firehouse of conflicting information and trying to figure out who to trust. The fact is that parent is probably a subject matter expert by the time they get to the IEP meeting so their input needs to be considered and their journey respected.
Parents often go home and cry after a meeting.
I can’t tell you how many times I have walked out to the parking lot after an IEP meeting with a parent who begins to cry. They held it together during the meeting for three hours while the team talked about their child. They held it together while the school continued to disagree with them. They held it together while the school told them their child was ‘fine’. Every parent knows that they know their child better than anyone else, so it can be incredibly frustrating, and heartbreaking, to listen to conflicting information.
I have also stood in the parking lot and had parents thank me after a meeting and say, “that was completely different just because you were in the room.” Why is that? Why are they treated differently just because an advocate is there? Is that ethical?
Parents desperately want to work with the school in the most congenial way possible.
Most parents are not looking for a fight. In fact, they would prefer a meeting where they did not have to request what should be offered. They would prefer not to bring an advocate or have to pay for an advocate. They are very aware that any relationships that are damaged during the IEP process could negatively impact their child’s everyday experience at the school. So, when they start asking the tough questions or bring an advocate, just remember they didn’t want it to be that way – and it didn’t have to be that way.
Parenting is hard. We all know that. Everyone has an opinion on how we should raise our children. Everyone has an opinion on how we should teach our children. When a child is struggling it is very difficult for parents to sift through all the noise about dyslexia and find what is appropriate for their child. Piling on the need to fight for their child is even more taxing on a parent. So, when you see ‘that parent’ on the other side of the table, remember that they wish they weren’t there and there might be tears later.