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Therapy and sanity for ordinary parents of special kids.

If at First You Don’t Succeed at an IEP Meeting…Do the Opposite



“If something isn’t working, do the opposite of what you’d normally do.”

A dear friend and therapist (score!) once gave me that advice after I lamented about my parental ineffectiveness. I, of course, in imperfect form, did what I normally do — forgot the advice. That is, until recently, when I was watching an episode of Seinfeld and witnessed this oppositional strategy effectively employed by a very unlikely character — the infamous George Constanza. For those unfamiliar with George, he is the neurotic, single, short, stalky, slow-witted bald man on the show, the self-proclaimed “Lord of the Idiots,” who flounders at life. George’s life is so unimpressive that he often fabricates stories and professions — from being an architect to marine biologist — in order to impress women.

One day, after complaining to his good friend, Jerry Seinfeld, about his failings in life (George has no job, no money, and lives with his parents), Jerry suggests, “If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.”

George decides to test Jerry’s theory by boldly walking up to an attractive woman and saying, “My name is George, I’m unemployed and live with my parents.” The woman turns to him, bats her eyelashes, and replies in a flirty voice, “I’m Victoria. Hi.”

George’s model of success got me thinking, What if I could take that same approach to something that I have always felt like a complete and utter failure at — the IEP Team Meeting?  

Here’s what I would do:

1.Instead of signing my name to the sign-in sheet, I will be a real rebel and print my name…in ALL CAPS. That will show them who’s in charge (or that I have serious anger issues).

2. Instead of worrying about where I’m going to sit at the meeting (a strategic decision so that I don’t feel like I’m outnumbered or testifying in front of Congress), I will stand. This will catch them off guard, while ensuring I don’t fall asleep (something that’s always a risk when they start going through their dry reports).

3. When the team members ask me if I understand their reports or have any questions, I will no longer nod my head and tell them to continue. Instead, I will ask some direct and well-thought-out questions of my own:

“Doesn’t anyone here speak my language?”

“Isn’t it my right to have an English-to-English translator here?”

4. I will no longer cry when I hear about my child’s struggles. Instead, I will laugh. While laughing may not help with my water retention (I cried out 7 pounds at my last IEP Team Meeting), it may work my abdominal muscles, which is always a good thing.

5. I will not dress up in a suit to show that I am professional or buttoned up. Instead, I will wear the special-parent wardrobe staples of  the no-button elastic pants and sweatshirt. I will also wear a bra, which is the opposite of what I do when at home.

6. I will no longer bring food to try and suck up to the teachers. Instead, I will bring drink, most likely wine. Mindful of the fact that not everyone drinks, I will also bring Prozac.

7. When the team starts to put together goals for the IEP, instead of just listening to them, I will ask them to add a strategic goal of my own:

Can you add that ‘Emily’s mother will understand what you all are talking about in 1 out of 10 opportunities.'”

So that’s my strategy for my upcoming meeting. If all goes well, I should leave the meeting with a different outcome — feeling energized, smart, and in charge. That is, until they put me in cuffs for bringing illegal substances to school.



2 Responses to If at First You Don’t Succeed at an IEP Meeting…Do the Opposite

  1. Sharon January 29, 2016 at 7:54 pm #

    Vintage Shut Up Sistahs! Love you, love your message, and laughed out loud while reading this piece.

  2. Alix Strickland Frénoy February 3, 2016 at 10:14 am #

    I love the idea of wine at IEP meetings! This may actually be acceptable in France… Must check!

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