This post is a follow up to my previous post titled Rules Vs. Strategy.
When determining potential strategy, I try to take peoples view points and motives into account when and if I am able.
View Point – The lens/set of eyes that a person views the world through. For example, If I asked Donald Trump; Rand Paul; Hillary Clinton; and Bernie Sanders the same question about how to improve our National Security, I would get vastly different answers depending on: Whether they are a Republican or a Democrat; A Hawk or a Dove; From a red state or a blue state; Which they prize greater: National security or individual liberty; What they see as the biggest threat to national security; How fiscally conservative they are; and so on. Bottom line, all four individuals come to the situation with very different backgrounds and experiences. Therefore, they each have their own unique view point.
The same goes for public school employees. Each comes to the IEP table with very different backgrounds and experiences. Are they new to teaching, or a year away from retirement? Do they teach Kindergarten or high school? Do they teach regular education, or special education? How much experience do they have with participating in IEP meetings? Are they for or against the protections that special education students receive? Do they have kids of their own? Is their nickname Gunga Din (They always carry the district water)? The list goes on.
For example, If I was an emotional wreck at an IEP meeting, I would hope that the school district staff would cut me some slack, knowing that I have the view point of an overly emotional parent, who may or may not have a lot of prior experience with the process. Likewise, if a first-year kindergarten teacher and a ten year High School Special Education teacher made the same troubling statement at an IEP meeting, I might be much more likely to give a pass to the first teacher, based on her inexperience and naivety.
Motives – In short, what is the person thinking about (or trying to achieve) when determining how to answer your question? Please feel free to liberally apply grains of salt to the following opinion. If I were to go into an IEP meeting for my son and ask “can we add a one on one aide to the IEP?”, I suspect that the answer I receive is based upon the person’s motives. For example, f the person answering is primarily student-centered, their answer might genuinely be based upon student need. If the person answering is primarily self-centered, their answer might be based upon: do they know the answer; how much work will they have to put in to find out; will they have to work outside of their contractual hours to accomplish the goal; and so on. Finally, if the person answering the question is district-centered, their potential answer might be based upon: what will it cost; will agreeing cause a union issue; will this set a precedent that will be expected by other parents; and so on. While this list of motives is not intended to be all inclusive, and nobody has one universal motive (i.e. we can have multiple motives, with the strongest one varying based upon the individual situation), Therefore, I am sharing my opinion above to demonstrate the following point. Everyone at the table may not share your motive to leave the meeting with a one on one aide included within the IEP document.
When my family and I moved from upstate NY to Baltimore in October, 2013, my oldest son (a student with HFA) was in the 7th grade. Given his history, I was especially concerned about how this dramatic mid-year move would affect his learning and behavior. As such, I reached out to his new school prior to the first day of class. The staff member that I was referred to was clearly student centered. She did everything I asked, and then some, to help ensure my son’s first day went as smoothly as possible, including: giving him a tour of the building on an all staff in-service day; introduced him to teachers; showed him his locker and let him practice opening it (he had fine motor issues); disseminated my written concerns to all his teachers; arranged to have my son sit with 2 special friends at lunch during his first day; and on and on it went. Now, as time went on, I slowly discovered that this same staff member was not always the best person to email, because her responses were often slower coming than my patience and personal preference deemed necessary. After taking my deep breaths, and giving the situation some thought, I decided to let this one go, because I felt that her decision to spend time with kids (and not on her computer), although annoying at times, was an honorable choice.
Now, let me offer a completely different scenario for comparison. If: I was preparing to attend an annual IEP meeting; I knew I wanted to ask for a one on one aide; and I was aware that the district wide director of compliance was scheduled to participate in the team meeting, I might decide not to walk into the meeting and announce what I was trying to achieve (“Hello. I am hoping that we can all come to an agreement today for a one on one aide for my child”, because if the district supervisors motives are cost savings, they are going to turn into an obstructionist at the meeting. Put another way, if I want to score a touch down, I am not going to tell the opposition that I plan on handing the ball to player #22 and telling him to run up the right side of the field.
Everything I have stated above is my personal opinion, and not intended to be a hard and fast rule. However, keep in mind, if you want to achieve the best services for your child in the shortest time period, please try and consider the view point and motives of the other IEP team members when and if you are able.