autism · confessions · Down syndrome

Ways to make your next IEP awesome.

Even with the best teachers and staff, Individualized Education Plan Meetings are kind of terrible. I’ve spoken about how fun it is to talk about all the crap your kid can’t do, and even at it’s best, goal planning is boring. At it’s worst, you’re in for a fight that may or may not eventually require tears, attorneys and mediation. We’ve been lucky in the past couple of years to have had great IEP teams, and willing school districts. Still though, as I spend hours and hours preparing for those meetings, and then IN those meetings, I still can’t escape the thought that there could be a way, or many ways, to make them MUCH more entertaining.

So I took this question to my autism-blogger friends. What can we do to make these meetings AWESOME?  Here’s our list:

  • Every time someone says “with autism” correct them to “autistic” then do he reverse the next time they say “autistic.”
  • Ask them if they’ve heard of the (totally made up name) theory of development and see if they lie.
  • When they bring up goals that your child has accomplished, pat yourself on the back and say, “good for me” 
  • Bring notes, on the back of the notes have little ditties written so they see them when you lift up the paper. Like on Wayne’s World.
  • Give yourself affirmations at random times. “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough…”
  • Insist on doing “Duck Duck Goose” around the table to decide who has to read their section first. Demand outcomes of the game written into the minutes.
  • Bring all of your other kids in. And other people’s kids.   
  • Hand out your own goals at the beginning of the meeting. “The Speech and Language Pathologist will bark when someone says ‘IEP’ 2 out of 3 times with minimal prompting” Measure goals at the end of the meeting. 
  • Start every sentence with, “I read on the internet…”
  • …or “my psychiatrist says…” 
  • Insist on Person-first language then don’t use it yourself. At all.  
  • Come in all decked out in sensory attire : weighted vest, lap pad, chewelry, and fidgets.
  • Bring a visual timer
  • Ask for the meeting to do be done with a sign language interpreter. When they ask you why, call them a racist. 
  • Say “listening ears” whenever they’re not listening to what you’re saying.
  • See how long you can hold this face:
  • Every time someone speaks to you, respond with “Are you talkin’ to me?” With full DiNero accent.
  • Insist on keeping the chair next to you empty for your friend, Penelope Paddywack, who no one else can see.
  • Dress like Maria, from Sound of Music. Carry an acoustic guitar.
  • Answer everything in the form of a question. Like Jeopardy
  • Bring Scooby Snacks and throw one to the person whenever you like what they said.
  • Rap.
  • Carry a tiny chihuahua and say “That’s hot” whenever you agree.
  • At random intervals say “You bitches be crazy”
  • Show up with that black paint under your eyes that athletes use. So they know you’re serious.
  • Put tape on your knuckles part way through.
  • Talk in third person
  • Script an entire episode of Spongebob.
  • Use puppets
  • Nickname everyone on the team. Use names that describe their worst physical attribute.      
  • Answer every question with “on the advice of counsel, I refuse to answer on the grounds that I might incriminate myself”
  • Elbow your husband and wink knowingly (but act as if you thought you were being subtle about it and don’t think they’ll notice) at every other, then every third thing someone else says, shifting the pattern every so often, completely randomly. They will go nuts trying to figure out the connection between the statements you’re taking issue with.
  • At the end, laugh your ass off and then say “Okay you guys, let’s do the real one”
  • At impromptu moments, scream “The sky is falling!” Then cluck 3 times.
  • Take your own set of “minutes” and force everyone to sign them. “SLP carried on about her period for forty five minutes, fibroids were discussed. OT says her fingers hurt”
  • Bring your own attendance sheet with celebrity names on them. “Sorry, we either wait for Brad Pitt to arrive or I need you to sign a waiver saying it’s okay that we had this meeting in his absence.”    
  • Answer everything they say with “That’s what she said”
  • Receive a phone call. Proceed to walk the person on the other line through something important, like landing a plane or an appendectomy.  
  • Come dressed as William Wallace, complete with blue face paint
  • Speak only in Chinese phrases you learned from Ni-hao, Kai-Lan.
  • Go dressed up in full paintball gear and start shooting each person in the leg who says something you disagree with   
  • Bring your “translator” and have them translate everything said… into Pig Latin. 
  • Just keep doing this, “So what I’m hearing you say is…..” and say what you want to hear, not at all what they said. 
  • Say “I’d like to give all my answers in the form of interpretive dance” 

 aaaand you’re welcome,

Lexi Sweatpants and: 
Diana at Autism Rocks
Alysia at Try Defying Gravity
Jennifer at Anybody Want A Peanut 
Amanda at Confessions From HouseholdSix 
Lizbeth at Four Sea Stars
Bec at Snagglebox  
Flannery at The Connor Chronicles
Jessica at Don’t Mind The Mess
Becky at Defining Normal
Kelly at Uplanned Trip to Holland
 Varda at The Squashed Bologna: a slice of life in the sandwich generation

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135 thoughts on “Ways to make your next IEP awesome.

    1. Thank you! It was a lot of fun to write. Check out the people I wrote it with, too. They are fantastic writers.

  1. OMG. I am TOTALLY going to try a few of these. I have one to add. At an IEP, I once turned to our previous service coordinator and said “So you’re on the spectrum too… right? No? Really? Hmmm. I’m surprised. I totally had you pegged for an aspie”. But I never told her WHY.

    Thanks for the new ideas! πŸ™‚

    1. Ohmigosh, I love that! I’m tucking away that little gem along with several from the list for when I need a snappy retort. πŸ™‚

  2. I am and SLP and have been working with ASD for 30 years. I also have been a parent of a child on and IEP and I have to say I LOVE your ideas! This was great! My pholosphy has always been, this is someones baby, accent the positive, the parents are already aware of the negative. My favorite was wearing the sensory outfit! With a parent like you with the attitude you have, your child will go far! Keep on Keeping on!!!!!!

  3. I am the parent of son with Autism, and I totally WISH I could say some of these! In fact, I am going to send this to my son’s Psychologist to see his reaction!

    I am also going to post this to our new blog about IEP issues and problems just to make people laugh a little πŸ˜€ Just a snippet and a link, promise!


  4. I wore a tubetop to my IEP meeting last year and the teacher remarked that I looked “tropical.” I’m requiring all of the team members to wear them this year.

  5. Dun…dun…duuunnnnnn…. I am attending my daughter’s IEP meeting tomorrow. I plan on using a few of these:) I am definitely using the “I hear what your saying…insert what I want one.”! I am also packing an IEP disaster kit. It will include lots of chocolate, Kleenex, some kind of tie downs (to keep me from crawling across the table and slapping someone) maybe a few Xanax;) and flowers for at the end, in case they give me what I want.

  6. School Psychologist for 20 years. Can’t even begin to tell you how many fellow speducators I’ve wanted to strangle. I’m doing my next IEP with puppets! And I’m using the I hear you (say what I want) with my Ed Specialist. I’m hoping to drive her crazy in 10 days. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  7. A friend referred me to this, and I was anticipating some really useful hints. These are way better!

    And I declare this is the only thing that has ever given me a twinge of regret that we don’t have IEP meetings anymore.

  8. This was really funny, and we all get this humor as we all live it.
    Thank you for not making me feel like I am “crazy”, more people are out there with the same experience.

  9. Well that explains some the behaviors I have been seeing recently at IEP reviews. πŸ™‚ lol good

  10. Thank you so much for the humor. I love it and hope that I can ever sit in an IEP as entertaining as this would be.

  11. Wish I could give you this (((HUG))) Our IEP days are far behind us but boy oh boy did this have me rolling… It is a darn good thing I had not read this a few years back the team we had in High School was …well… then again at least it would have been fun for me!!

  12. We just had our first IEP meeting for our son….lasted two sessions and was in parts completely mind numbing. I would have totally done the “duck duck goose” game had I read this first….there is always the next one!
    Thanks for the laughs and setting the right tone of humor for something that isn’t always so laughable.

  13. I AM a sign language interpreter, IEP meetings stink in any language!

    This cracked me up. I’ve sat in many IEP meetings, both as an interpreter and parent, and have not felt listened once…in either role. Seriously frustrating.

    I may have to start using some of these techniques!

  14. I think I would love having an IEP meeting with you!!! These are amazing. Maybe I will give this list to my classroom parents, let them pick and choose which ones they want to do during our meetings to spice things up πŸ˜‰ I can definitely see where you are coming from with how IEP meetings can go, luckily I work in a charter school with a smaller environment where we can sit in a meeting, talk about what the student CAN do and how we will work to make them even better at it. I wish you all the best in your future meetings…and ask for pictures to be posted of reactions to anything you do off your list!

  15. I almost cried from laughing so hard. I am a Special Ed teacher, and IEP meetings are definitely a pain for both parents and educators. Maybe I should try some of these ideas at my next meeting?

  16. Bringing this to my special moms Bible study! This is beautiful, just beautiful. I needed tissues. From snorting out coffee.

  17. How refreshing to not feel like I am from Mars! I find it ridiculous that as parents we have to educate the educators about our children. It is exhausting trying to have a meaningful role in the IEP process. I absolutely LOVE the made up theory! I bet it would work! This made my day. Thanks for making me laugh!! You all rock! To everyone who sees the abilities in our kids and is fighting the good fight for our children you have my utmost respect! Parents you are not alone!!

  18. Loved this! I’m trying not to laugh too loudly, as it’s after midnight (snorted a few times, tho). I was reminded of our Early Intervention … um, person … who was a real card, and also the mom of a special needs child. At my son’s transitional meeting (from early intervention to public school), we all went around the table and introduced ourselves. When it was her turn, she said, “I just work over at the McDonald’s across the street and wanted to see what was going on here.” SEVERAL double-takes, I laughed out loud … it was GREAT! Thanks so much πŸ™‚

  19. Thank you so much for this. I’ve left so many IEP meetings wanting to cry and/or tear my hair out. Just thinking about these ideas will make the next one so much better.

  20. Our IEP meetings and dealings with my son’s school has been a real nightmare! I laughed so hard when I read this and wish we would have done some of these things before. We have a meeting Friday – the first of which our attorney will attend. (Believe me when I say it is bad, so we’ve had to retain an attorney for so many reasons. One of which is the assault charges they filed against my 6 year old son right after our February meeting with them.) I told my husband we just need to show up with a bowl of popcorn, take off our shoes sit back and enjoy the show. Thanks again for this – It is refreshing to laugh about it.

  21. As a former special ed teacher, I have lost count of how many IEP meetings I’ve sat through or organized or scheduled etc. I used to feel so bad for some of those parents who had that glazed look in their eye because we had to go through EVERY stinkin’ page in detail ad infinitum. The only really bad meeting I can remember was with a mom who really was crazy (she actually quoted her psychiatrist in the meeting.) One of those meetings where you feel really bad for the kid. Trust me, we hate IEP meetings too. I wish I’d had a few parents throw me some Scooby Snacks.

    1. Just because you see a psychiatrist, doesn’t mean you are “crazy”. And just because you might be mentally ill, doesn’t mean you can be called “crazy”. And just because a parent has a mental illness, doesn’t mean you should feel sorry for the child. Pity doesn’t help. You probably didn’t mean that, but let’s take some of the stigma away from having a psychiatrist. There is nothing wrong with that. Someone who works with children with special needs should know this! i often appear “crazy” at IEP meetings, and once I quit attending I no longer appeared crazy. Once we started homeschooling, it really got a lot better. Sometimes school and special education is so incredibly traumatizing for parents and kids that serious issues happen. Just a thought, without knowing any of the actual circumstances.

  22. How appropriate that I found your post 3 days before our next IEP meeting! Hilarious…. and yet after reading all the comments I feel hideously unprepared. Ugh. Wish us luck….

  23. My son is now 7 fixing to be 8. When he went into kindergarten they had an IEP meeting to see if he was qualified for an Iep since he has Asperger’s . During the meeting he was bored. For some reason he would start bocking like a chicken when he was bored. Needless to say pretty much the whole meeting was chicken noises lol It was for sure interesting.

  24. I may have commented before…I’ve read this a few times. rereading it today I especially laughed at “Take your own minutes” OHMYGOSH!!!! I got tears in my eyes! There’s nothing worse than an IEP after your child has been out of school for several weeks due to recurring illness. All anyone can say is that there was no considerable progress due to lack of attendance…wtc! Seriously people!? Not like I just kept my son home from school, played go fish all day, eating fish crackers and cheerios! Watching umpteen episodes of favorite cartoon of the day! Really? We stayed home dealing with the gunk of the month, passing it around the house from one member to another. When the kids finally get three days in a row without symptoms, and get back to school all I hear is “we had the IEP meeting” We’ll get you the reports asap. Then read them and find my child has not only suffered setbacks in some areas, but had no progress in others. IEP’s suck. Seriously, suck.

  25. As a special educator, I take the IEPs that I write seriously and value the opportunity to meet with parents as teammates. While I love a good joke, the thought of parents trying to mock the teachers that put so much time into their children is a little disheartening. I love my parents, I love my kids and I work really hard to make sure that we have quality, effective meetings that encourage student growth.. I know that many may reply that I have no sense of humor, but these sort of pranks discredit the progress we try to make and also waste our already over-extended time. Though funny in the hypothetical, I fear that these antics could negatively impact IEP teams who are truly committed to student growth.

    1. Most of us aren’t mad at the teachers. It’s the system that is so messed up, I for one have given up hope and just homeschool now.

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