One of the most intimidating things I have ever been through as a parent of a child with a disability is going to an ARD meeting. ARD meetings are scary, intimidating, and you are always outnumbered.
I have gone to ARDs for at least 11 years in the Midland school district. It always comforts me when other parents admit that they, too, dread ARD meetings. I always feel better that I am not the only one on earth dreading these very important meetings.
As far as tips go, mine are pretty simple:
1. Make sure you start with everyone introducing themselves. I have sat through a meeting, wondering who at least one person (if not more) was because there were no introductions.
2. Make sure you receive the paperwork entitled Procedural Safeguards. I went 2-3 years with those never being handed to me, but I was new to the whole ARD business, so I never knew I was supposed to have them. Trust me, they are important. They really give some good guidelines to go by.
3. Do your homework before the actual ARD meeting. For me, this has been either meeting with the teacher or getting on the phone to the therapists ahead of time. Ask for any and all testing results before the meeting. That way you aren't shocked by some new revelation they discovered during the testing.
There is nothing worse than being in a room with nine people staring as one of them tells you, "We wanted to let you know, the testing showed that your child is considered mentally challenged." Obviously this is terrible news and no matter how you hear it, it will tear your heart apart. But hearing it with those people looking at you, trying to digest it, and settle yourself down for the remainder of the meeting is difficult.
4. Don't go alone. I have wished a million times over that I had taken my husband with me, just to feel like I had someone on my side. It can be so overwhelming. You have a diagnostician, the special education teacher, a regular ed teacher, physical therapists, speech therapists, principal, school psychologists, etc., all present and giving reports about your child.
It also helps to have someone along to take notes and help you listen. In The Permian Basin, we have Official Parent Leaders that can go with you to the ARD to be of assistance. See if there is something similar in your area. Their knowledge and support is a really big help.
5. The most important tip: Remember that you are in control, you are the advocate, and you know your child better than anyone in that room. You can call for a break at any time of the meeting, you can call for clarification during the meeting, if you don't agree with or understand something, don’t sign the final ARD papers or sign that you don't agree.
6. Last but not least, go in with a positive attitude. This has been hard for me at times, but it is so important to start the ARD meeting on a good note. Wait and listen and then if you disagree, state your opinion.
There have been many times when I haven't agreed, but after I was able to state my case, the school representatives were able to see things from my side. I like to think that everyone is there to help me and to be an advocate for my son.
I like to interject with stories to make the discussion personal to my son. And to help my nerves, I always have a picture of my Jac in the palm of my hand, under the table to help me keep my cool.
He is the reason I attend these meetings. I am there to be his voice!
For more information on ARD meetings, try the ARD Process on this website.
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