To The Parent Who’s About To Enter Their Child’s IEP Meeting

Dear Parent,

I feel for you.

The amount of anxiety and pressures that can often go into an individualized education program (IEP) meeting can seem daunting. You struggle with compiling your child’s records. At times you may just be worried about your child’s school truly not understanding the needs of your child.

For those just starting off in the process, you might be stressed about the initial evaluation process. As your child grows up, you may also have concerns if your school is truly providing transitional services to help them when they age out of supports as adults.

And don’t even get me started about the amount of IEP paperwork that may be flooding your house right now.

Regardless of where you are in this timeline, I want you to know something very important today.

You are your child’s greatest advocate, so when you get into that room, hold your head up high and advocate to the best of your abilities for the programs and services to address your child’s needs.

I recently listened to a keynote presentation from Ryan Blair, a best-selling author who is a single father of a child on the autism spectrum, in which he said, “When you walk into the room of your child’s IEP meeting, you are the boss. Not the principal.”

My parents lived by this quote of “being the boss” ever since they started advocating as part of my IEP when I was diagnosed with autism at 4. This was when I was just starting school, so while I transitioned to school, my parents transitioned to help me find supports. One of those transitions had to do with preparing for IEP meetings.

Years after, I would start sitting in on more of my IEP meetings to figure out more about the supports I needed to succeed. Being able to discuss this with my village made learning easier for me. I now recommend students to consider sitting in on their IEP meetings to learn more about their development.    

Today as a disability advocate, I can say that there are countless resources out there that I’d recommend to you to help you when it comes to IEPs. Goodwin Procter LLP created “Individualized Education Program (IEP): Summary, Process and Practical Tips,” 26-page guide that contains tips on the IEP process. In addition, groups such as Autism Speaks have created a list of resources that can help with your child’s IEP and other school related topics.

Seek out these resources and never stop fighting for your child. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) serves as a law to protect our loved ones with disabilities. Protect your child by being prepared and ready for that meeting. My parents made a world of difference towards my development today as an adult on the spectrum by advocating for me and my needs in school.

I hope you will be able to do the same for your child.

Your Friend,

Kerry

And a special thank you to all the educators out there who are helping make a difference for their students and helping make this process as collaborative as possible. I still talk to many of my teachers to this day. They helped me so much in my development. You are truly making a difference. 

Kerry Magro is an international speaker on the autism spectrum. A version of this post originally appeared on HuffPost here and Kerrymagro.com here.