PREPARING FOR SCHOOL MEETINGS
Sometimes getting your child the school services they need and deserve is a process. Meetings with the school are a large part of this process. Meetings are an opportunity for a parent or guardian to negotiate and problem solve with school personnel while advocating on behalf of their child. Here are some things to keep in mind that may be helpful when preparing for a meeting with your child’s school:
1. Go into the meeting knowing what you want.
If there is a problem with the school, consider not only the problem but solutions as well. Go into the meeting ready to discuss why the issue is an issue and make suggestions about how to resolve it. Consider what you want, what the school can do about it, and why they should do it (factual reasons). If the school refuses or rebuffs your suggestions you can make note of that and take further action.
2. Do not blame or criticize when submitting your issue to the school.
Try to stick to the facts of the situation and do your absolute best not to let emotions interfere with the progress of problem solving. Even if criticism is rightly deserved, it can make people feel defensive and less willing to work with you. If the goal is to reach a solution to improve your child’s education, sticking to the facts is the quickest way to obtain a team-created solution.
3. Protect and maintain the parent-school relationship.
Do not let personal feelings jeopardize the progress that can be made to solve the problem. It may be helpful to think of it as separating your personal relationship with the people involved from the problem. Focus on solving the problem and interacting in ways that promote cooperation and trust.
4. Seek win-win solutions to problems.
Remember the goal is to find a solution to your problem with the school. A solution which benefits both you and the school is one most likely to be agreed upon, so seek this solution! Seeking a win-win solution also goes a long way towards growing your relationship with the school. A positive relationship will facilitate the implementation of the solution.
5. Work to understand the school’s position.
To find win-win solutions, you must first understand the school’s position. Try to consider how the school sees your problem from their point of view. Think about what is at stake for the school and the obstacles they face in addressing your concerns. Working through these questions will assist you in developing more agreeable solutions and demonstrate your willingness to work with the school.
6. Other Helpful Resources
One of the best things you can do to prepare for your meeting is to educate yourself. A number of organizations share online resources to educate and prepare you with tools, tips, and suggestions from other parents based on their experiences. Parent Mentors are also available in many Ohio school districts. Mentors are parents of a child with a disability who are trained to support communication and the relationship between the school and parents of children with disabilities.
School Services for Children with Special Needs: Know Your Rights – American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Getting the Most from Special-Ed Meetings – ADDitude Inside the ADHD mind
Advocating for Your Child – Parenting Special Needs Magazine (Peter and Pam Wright)
10 Reasons Why Schools Say No! – From Emotions to Advocacy
Areas to Consider When Preparing for Your PPT Meeting – Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center, Inc. (CPAC)
Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy – Wrightslaw’s Learn to recognize pitfalls and avoid mistakes that prevent parents from successfully advocating for their children.
Understood – Understood offers personalized resources, free daily access to experts, a secure online community, practical tips and more.
A Day in Our Shoes – A parent blog sharing information and resources to help parents make more informed decisions regarding their children with disabilities and their IEPs.
National PTA – Getting Started – You Are Your Child’s Best Advocate – Families are children’s best advocates. The right resources and support can help make it a little easier.
Special Education Resources You Need to Know – A list of highly effective organizations designed for parents and advocates, and those designed for teachers and administrators.
This guide was developed as part of a project made possible by a Grant from the Ohio State Bar Foundation. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of the Ohio State Bar Foundation.
Lead researcher/author: Shannon Meyer, J.D. Candidate, 2018, RedTreehouse.org Legal Intern