This week we have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting with my son’s school. We are going to request that they purchase him a walker to get around. He’s had a gait trainer there, but he’s outgrown it. It’s our goal to have a walker he uses solely at school and then one at home, especially since he’s getting more mobile.
I'm growing increasingly anxious about this meeting. I’m gearing up for a fight by convincing myself that the meeting is going to be contentious. I’m going to have to dig my heels in to make our request happen.
But here’s the problem with that: It’s not fair to my son’s school district.
They might agree with our perspective and so we'll spend the rest of the day talking about things we found on Pinterest. But I—and we as parents of children with disabilities—are so conditioned to fight first. Our instinct is to swing before even knowing if there’s a fight.
I believe there is some value to this perspective. Our kids have a challenging life and we are their advocates. We are the bulldogs that make things happen. But I also wonder if it’s totally fair to the folks we are working with when we go into something with a battle-focused mind. Is it fair that we are already thinking of them as the enemy? They might be trying to get a little bit more information so they can help.
So I’m trying hard to go into this meeting with an open mind and to meet the district folks where they are. If they are willing to work with us, then we’re set. If they disagree, then the bulldog will be unleashed. But maybe I need to keep the dog on the chain until I know a little more about what the conversation is going to look like.
Because “gearing up for a fight” is stressful. It takes what little emotional energy I have to give on a weekly basis. I need to do a better job of using that energy for something else, maybe something more helpful for my family.
That’s my goal for this week: meet those folks where they are. Make no mistake, I’ll take the gloves off if I need to. But for this meeting, I’m going to go in with the hopes of cooperation and a spirit of comradery.
Learn more about IEP meetings and working with your child’s school.