Guest Author - Vicki McCarthy
Having a child within the special education system can mean endless rounds of meetings and reviews and can add lots more pressure to an already stressful time for parents. Being your childís advocate is no easy task, but is something that needs to be done to ensure their needs are fully met.
Those couple of days prior to a meeting can mean sleepless nights and lots of anxiety especially if you have had an experience of one that has not gone so well in the past. In fact, attending a meeting for your child can be downright scary!
So what can you do as a parent to ensure that you have a meeting which gives everyone the best possible outcome and as stress-free a time as possible?
Here are 5 helpful tips to help you deal with those all important meetings:
ē Be prepared
Keep a note of all the things you want to talk about prior to the meeting. For example, your childís strengths and weaknesses, things of importance that may be having an effect on them or any concerns or worries you have about them. When you have things written down itís so much easier to keep track of everything you need to cover. That way if you feel anything is being missed you can refer back to your notes.
Thereís nothing more frustrating than leaving a meeting (which can sometimes take months to organise) only to discover there was something you forgot to ask.
Also take a pen and paper with you and take notes. Youíll be glad you did after the meeting. Itís amazing how much of what was discussed can be forgotten.
ē Speak to your child beforehand
Itís a good idea to talk to your child before the meeting and ask them to identify anything which is troubling them or if thereís anything they want you to discuss at the meeting. This may not be possible for some children but if your child is able to contribute then allow them to. They may even want to attend for part of the meeting. Discuss with school staff if this is possible. Our children can make valuable contributions to meetings and allow everyone involved to see things from their perspective. Which, even as parents we sometimes donít see.
ē Take someone with you for support
Sometimes as a parent it can feel very intimidating and lonely sitting in a room full of professional people. When you are in a stressful situation it can be so easy to let nerves take over. Take someone with you, whom you feel supported by. They may not even contribute to the meeting but just having them there by your side may help to ease some of your anxieties.
They could also keep notes for you and give you gentle prompts if thereís a point you have forgotten to raise.
ē Try to keep your emotions in check
This is so difficult to do especially if your child is going through a rough time or if you have had a negative experience at meetings in the past. Where our children are concerned we canít help but be emotionally involved. However if emotions become overwhelming they can actually get in the way of what we are trying to achieve. So try to remain calm and in control, no matter what is being said. If there is something that is being said that you donít like or agree with, approach it in a calm and rational manner. People are more likely to listen and respect what you have to say. And whilst itís difficult not to take things personally, try not to.
ēRemember that the other people in the room may be as nervous as you are.
This is something I had never given any thought to until I had a conversation with a teacher about it. She informed me that she always found meetings nerve-wracking and dreaded them. Somehow knowing this made me feel so much better about going into meetings and realising that the other attendees are only human (despite their title) and just the same as me.
After your meeting take a while to reflect on both the negative and positive aspects of it. This will allow you to better prepare for the next one.