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31 for 21: IEP 2010, Part 1 [Down syndrome, disability, IEP, special education]

Posted Oct 22 2010 2:04pm

Today was IEP day.  (Individualized Education Plan—All students involved in special education have one of these.)  We moved Braska’s up a little earlier than her birthday in late November because I like it a little closer to the beginning of the school year.  It just makes more sense to me to be done with the new team soon after school starts.  So this year we’re in late October, next year maybe we’ll hit late September.  That’s probably a good time… about 6 weeks into the school year.

Anyway, after a busy day yesterday, which I’ll have to tell you about another day, I tackled the important parts of IEP prep last night.

The baking.

Yes, that’s a very high priority on my list of IEP must-haves.  In my opinion, no parent should EVER go to an IEP meeting empty-handed.  Taking goodies, be it  pastries,  muffins, or coffee cake for a morning meeting or M&M’s, cookies, or popcorn for an afternoon meeting, it’s a huge tool in making the meeting less intimidating for all involved.  It seems to allow people to let down their guard and work more as a team, as it should be.

I remember last year, when we did our first IEP process at Braska’s 3-year-old transition time, I was shocked to find that we (both Julie and I) were the first to bring food to an IEP meeting at our school.  And this is a developmental preschool… with more than half of the students having IEPs!!  I couldn’t believe it!   In all the talk on forums and blogs and DS message boards, taking brownies or goodies to IEP meetings seemed like the norm.  Everyone always said, “Don’t forget the brownies!” when the were discussing someone’s first IEP experience. 

So when I entered last year, in our first of two meetings—we did the EDM (eligibility determination meeting) and IEP meetings separately per my request—with my coffee cake, pumpkin bread, orange juice and milk, they were stunned.  I cannot tell you how excited these ladies were. It was so funny to see them talking about how they needed to find a reason to have IEP meetings each month for Braska.  Julie got a similar response when she had her meetings, just a few weeks before mine.  For my second meeting, a couple weeks after the first, I took more baked yummies and also took little bow-tied bundles of cookies for each person to take and enjoy later.

For MONTHS, and that’s not exaggerating, we would see people in the hall one or two times a week who were NOT at our IEP meetings but would say, “I hear you guys do some great baking!”  or “Can I be on your IEP team next year?  You bring food!”  It continues to amaze us how big a deal this was to our therapists, coordinators, and teachers.

I do it because it helps the meeting feel more informal.  But I also do it, and I tell them when I’m there, because I appreciate what they are doing for my daughter, that they give their best to teaching and treating her.  It’s my way of thanking them, and showing them a small little bit of pampering for a couple hours once a year.  That’s doable!  And the response is so fun, too.  How can you not want to do something nice for people that they tell others about and keep smiling about for months?!?  And it takes very little time, effort, or money.  Win-Win!

So this morning, I gathered up my muffins—chocolate chip, banana nut, and blueberry—and dropped the girls (and a few muffins, of course) off at Julie’s before the meeting.  Truthfully, I practically threw the girls into her house because I was running late!  Then I headed to QT to pick up a few donuts, for variety and color, and I also got 4 cups of 3 different kinds of cappuccino to take as well. (Caramel macchiato, French vanilla, and pumpkin spice)

I had the drinks in a cardboard drink holder, but as I turned into the school parking lot, I changed direction too quickly, and the drink holder went right over, with all 4 cups of hot drink.  I thought I was going to lose it…but I said—out LOUD, mind you—“This will NOT get to me today!”  I parked, picked up the cups, which had about half their contents left in them, and left the rest of the mess in the floor board of the van. 

As I walked into the school with my binder under the container of muffins, the donuts on top of the muffins and the drinks on top of the donut box, I passed a school staff member I don’t know.  She looked at me and said, “You’re the one!  You’re the one who brings food!  I heard today was your IEP!”  This cracked me up.  Before I even got there, members of my team were talking about how they were anticipating what I’d bring.  Awesome.

The team was very excited to see all the goodies.  The cappuccinos were a HUGE hit, even though there was less than originally planned, and everyone had plenty of yummies while we talked about Braska and her progress.

As I left, there were a few muffins and donuts left over.  I went to the classroom of Braska’s teacher last year, Miss N, and dropped off the donut holes and a couple muffins.  She’s pregnant, so she needs plenty of things to keep her day happy and her tummy full! (I took her leftover birthday cake last week, since I didn’t trust myself if I kept it at home.)  Then I went to the front office and left a couple muffins in the mailbox for our speech therapist from last year.  Both these ladies have now become friends, girls I just adore, and it’s fun to leave them a treat since they’re not officially on our team anymore.

So take the time, think ahead just a tad, and take something nice to share with your gang next time you have an IEP.  It makes a great impression, and how can helping your child’s caregivers feel appreciated be a bad thing?

Coming soon… the details about the IEP meeting.  Amazing!

(Oh, and if you have any questions about any of this IEP stuff, don’t hesitate to ask…)

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