There are times during a school year that parents need to recognize as times where advocacy efforts are the least effective. Consequently there are times that efforts should be increased. Understanding this can lessen stress and increase effectiveness.
Trying to accomplish changes prior to holidays is not one of the best times. Pushing issues beyond the middle of November is a waste of time. If you have not come to the table before this, then making your issues known and requesting data collection is probably all you can hope to achieve. During the holiday breaks no one is focused on anything but enjoying the holidays with their families, and my advice to parents is to put things down and do the same with their families – picking up issues when schools reconvene. This can be difficult to do when you have become entrenched in advocating for an issue. We often become so consumed with that focus that we miss out on things that all others are benefiting from.
Sometimes the best course of advocacy is no action at all. Taking time to put things down and recharge yourself may be the most beneficial thing you can do, and will reap benefits when efforts to advocate are resumed with you being rested and able to focus.
Meetings held prior to breaks usually end with the same conclusion of returning after the break to address an issue. Choosing the best times in a school year are as important as the services or changes being sought.
All agencies, State, Federal, and court systems will adhere to the same calendars limiting activities during these breaks, so parents should follow suit.
Trying to address issues in the time prior to the end of the school year is another fruitless expenditure of energy. Best case scenarios for these periods of down time are requests for evaluations, looking at the need for extended year services, and documenting baselines, so when you return from breaks you are able to measure recoupment of skills and can determine the need for services.
Advocacy is like running a long race. There are times to pace yourself and times to sprint for the finish line. For most it will be life-long, so learning to recognize this is important to your success.
I have also learned to establish clear baselines for responses and closure when sitting at the IEP table. Leaving decisions open ended as to when it will happen often leads to frustration and disappointment. Timing is essential when looking to complete an objective. I always found it effective to have two IEP meetings per year. One at the start of the year to get everyone on the same page, and a second at the end of the year to revisit progress and look at priorities for transitioning to the next grade. The IEP process is not meeting once a year but requires constant communication and monitoring throughout the year. Small manageable chunks that when pieced together provide the desired outcome works best for me.
Life should be an IEP (Individualized Existence Plan). Where are we now? Where do we want to be at the end of the year? What does it take to get there? How far did I go today? Knowing that it will not all happen at once and that skills may need to be taught and then built upon. As long as progression can be seen and measured you are expending energies in the right direction.