Being on both sides of the table–as teacher and parent–I know what to expect! I know the lingo and all the crazy acronyms. I know my rights and the educational rights of my children. However, that knowledge still doesn’t quell the ball of nerves before every single meeting. Below are a few tips for a successful ARD meeting.
School staff has discussed and formulated a plan before the ARD, without your input. Parents often feel pressured to just go along with it. Remember that you, the parent, are an integral part of the ARD team. You want to suggest ideas and make recommendations. You can request a staffing or a pre-ARD meeting.
This can be a very informal process where the team can share ideas and formulate a plan without the time restrictions of a formal ARD meeting. Preparing with the staff can often help build a positive working relationship. The staff working with your child may be experts in their field, but you are an expert about your child. Your input is valuable.
In order to make an informed decision at the ARD meeting, it is crucial that you have the opportunity to review the results of your child’s evaluations, current performance, strengths, and abilities, draft goals and objectives, and any proposed recommendations. Some districts provide this information as best practice, but many don’t. It’s up to you to request the information.
Request that copies be provided to you within 5 school days prior to the ARD meeting. Having this information ahead of time allows you time to review the information, note any concerns, and see if the goals you have for your child line up with what the school is proposing.
Do not go to your ARD meeting alone. It’s always good to have someone who can be a second set of eyes and ears and a more neutral voice for you if emotions start to run high. My friend knows when I’m feeling overwhelmed and need to take a break. She also takes notes for me so I can focus on what’s being said. If you do bring someone, it’s courteous to let the school know ahead of time.
ARD meetings cover a lot of information, and you’re sure to miss something. I suggest recording the meeting. Then, if there are any questions, you can go back and listen to the recording for clarification.
I put my iPhone in airplane mode and use Voice Memos. You could also use a small recorder. If you record, the school may also want you to send an email ahead of time so that they can be prepared. It is just common knowledge that my son’s ARD meetings will be recorded. Several times, I have forgotten to pull out my phone and our amazing diagnostician has reminded me!
ARD meetings can be very formal and are on a strict time schedule. They can seem impersonal, and often, your child gets lost in the paperwork. The team working with your child is there to prepare for the next year; you are there preparing for the rest of your child’s life.
For this reason, I have written a Vision Statement about my son. It shares our hopes and dreams for his future, and it's read at the beginning of every ARD meeting. It’s a great reminder that we are talking about my child, not just a name on a piece of paper. You can also do this with a short video or with pictures. Better yet, you could have your child attend the ARD meeting.
Seriously. Chocolate helps any situation! Therefore, food is a great way to break down that “you against them” barrier. It’s like a peace offering: I'm not here to fight with you, I’m here to plan with you. Having some snacks on the table has a way of easing the tension.
Remember, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is not set in stone. If things aren’t working well, you can request another ARD meeting. I hope these tips help you feel a little more confident about preparing for your next meeting. Information on ARD meetings and IEP’s is available Education and Schools.