What to Ask when Attending Meetings about Your Kids!
I've cobbled together a little checklist of things to ask in meetings about your kids, whether IEP reviews, medical reviews, statement or EHCP reviews, etc...
First of all, attending any meeting for and about our child is enormously stressful. It can provoke huge anxiety, frustration or anger for us - all the big emotions.
Prior to the meeting spend sometime thinking about what you wish to achieve for your child. You are their representative, their advocate and their cheerleader. There are 168 hours in a week. Your child might spend 30 of them at school. The remaining 138 hours are spent with you. No one else in the meeting, regardless of qualification, knows your child better than you do! You are the expert. Your specialist subject is your child.
Never be afraid to attend a meeting with a notebook. Take notes, write down your questions, ask for clarification if something is unclear. When we're stressed we forget stuff. If you require assistive technology ask to record the meeting. This should be well withinn 'reasonable adjustment'.
If your child is unable to attend the meeting, seek their views beforehand and share them. My top tip! If your child is unable to attend, let's face it they might not want to, take a photo of them and introduce them. There might be professionals present who have never met your child and would be unable to pick them out in a line up.
It is really important to manage your emotions during the meeting by remembering to breathe and taking sips of water. You can fall apart after the meeting.
If you can take someone with you. At the time of writing all meetings are online but you still might want to have a trusted friend with you for moral support.
You are likely to be faced with a bunch of people, some of whom might have baffling or intimidating job titles. Try not to feel intimidated. They are just people.
Although accessing services and support for our young people can feel like an endless fight, it is unlikely that our 'fight' is with the people present in this meeting. Our fight is likelier to be systemic, challenging policies and procedures. The professionals in the meeting may share your frustrations.
With this in mind try to make sure that your language remains focussed on the needs of your child at all times. When we verbally attack people, they become defensive and disengage. We've lost them and the meeting has gone off track.
You should all be on the same team - team 'your child'. There should be no one present who does not want to achieve a good outcome for your child. If professionals become distracted by concerns about budgets, who will pay for it, whose responsibility is it, etc... Politely remind them those details are not your child's concern.
Helpful phrases are:
Can you help me to understand the reasoning behind x, y or z decision?
Can you explain for me the purpose of this strategy?
Can you tell me how x, y or z will support my child's need?
What will that look like for my child?
What will that mean for my child?
How will outcome x, y or z be measured?
What will the timescale be for x, y or z?
How will we know that x, y or z is working for my child?
Who is responsible for monitoring x, y or z?
How will x, y or z be communicated?
If you find you're being shut down or suggestions are being dismissed:
What's the barrier to that?
What are the challenges in providing this?
How can we move this forward for my child?
Can we as parents support with this?
What support options are available?
What is available elsewhere?
What hasn't been tried yet?
What has been successful in similar situations?
'Please keep us informed because we like to ensure that we support our child at home', is another helpful phrase.
I'm sure there will be a million more, and better, questions you can think of.
Stay focussed, stay calm, be your child's cheerleader and don't be afraid to ask for an issue to go higher. If it is not possible to achieve acceptable outcomes, by all means, be cross, be frustrated but be polite. It is seldom within the power of members of staff who attend meetings to change policy and systems. If policy and systems are the issue, explore taking it higher.
Wishing you the very best of luck. Be brave. Our kids are brave. We role model for our kids how to problem solve, how to negotiate and how to be successful advocates. One day they might even be doing this for themselves. xx