Saturday, April 18, 2009

Five Ways to Prepare your Spirit for an IEP

It is IEP (Individual Education Plan) season in our area. Especially for parents of children who will undergo a transition from one phase of education to another (e.g. preschool to elementary school) or from one agency to another (e.g. Regional Center to School District Early Intervention Program) this time of year is busy and stressful. I've seen a lot of resources that explain how to prepare practically for an IEP. Knowing your rights and consulting with experts outside the agency you're dealing with are important steps. As a person of faith I've found that it is just as important to prepare for these meetings in the spiritual realm. Even the most straightforward meeting can be challenging, and IEPs are rarely straightforward. Here are some ideas that I've used.

1. Get prayer support. I developed a list of ten family members and friends that know us and know God. I often e-mail them when a particularly stressful IEP is on our calendar. I send them a brief explanation for why this meeting is so critical, and I ask for specific prayer for any services we're seeking or decisions we're making. I also ask for prayer that we will be good witnesses of God's grace and love. I try to also let them know how the meeting went so they will hear how God answered their prayers and how they can continue to pray.

2. Keep short accounts. Search your heart for any anger or bitterness that has been allowed to take root. Consider each participant in the meeting: teachers, other professionals or experts, advocates, your spouse, your child, and even yourself. It is easy to start playing the blame game when you feel like someone is not giving your child what they need, but being angry imprisons you. It's hard to be a good advocate for your child when you are bound up in your own emotions. Forgiveness is a choice. Sometimes it is a choice that must be made repeatedly in order to be able to work through difficult situations as a team.

3. Enlist practical help from the Body of Christ. This has been essential for us since our extended biological family does not live nearby. Our church is quite literally our family. When we have a potentially difficult IEP on the calendar I ask friends from church to help with babysitting, playdates, etc. It also benefits the church because it lets people use their gifts and be involved in ministry.

4. Seek godly counsel. We are blessed to have other Christian friends who have walked through numerous IEPs before us. Often if I am writing a letter to explain our position or just need to bounce some ideas off someone, these friends have both the practical knowledge and the spiritual wisdom to give good advice. However, I also find that it is beneficial to talk with godly people who don't necessarily know anything about the IEP process. The questions they ask and the fresh perspective they offer can be the dose of insight I need to break through whatever obstacle has arisen.

5. Put on your armor, but remember who the enemy is. Consider meditating on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) before your meeting. I have recently found this to be very useful to prepare for any potentially difficult encounter. It is important, though, to remember that "... our struggle is not against flesh and blood" (i.e. not against teachers, administrators, experts, bureaucrats, etc.) "but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (verse 12) Satan would like nothing better than to discredit your faith, discouraged you, or defeat you with temptation. IEP meetings are a ripe spiritual battleground, but you need not be unprotected.

There are probably more steps one could take to walk into an IEP with their spirit aptly prepared. I'd love to hear your ideas via comments. These are the most critical ones I've encountered in the last year. I'll be praying that they are useful to you.

Click here for a practical idea for preparing for a new school year, new teacher.

1 comment:

Kimberley Payne said...

Great post! My daughter has a learning disability and we have to often deal with IEPs. I agree that it's very important to prepare the spirit!
Thanks for sharing.


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