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How to effectively communicate during the IEP process

Let’s be honest here: one of the most stressful things about parenting a child with special needs, Down Syndrome, ADHD, ADD, Autism, SPD, learning disabilities, dyslexia, et cetera, is the IEP (Individualized Education Plan). There’s not a lot of people who love IEPs.

For a lot of parents, one of the most infuriating things about the IEP process can be conveying the needs of their child… It can be tough, as a parent, to hear feedback about their child’s performance in school. Furthermore, it can be a struggle to understand the legal terms of the process.

Before anything, do this

Breathe in through the nose, and out through the mouth. Everything will be okay.

Do your homework! Familiarize yourself with the legality of your state and their IEP proceedings. Get to know your kiddo’s diagnosis by talking to professionals in the field, or other moms whose children have a similar diagnosis. It can be overwhelming to go into an IEP meeting without knowing a whole lot about your kiddo’s situation, which is why you should do your research beforehand.

If there are things that you would like to discuss in IEP meetings, bring a notepad of topics, a pen, and some extra paper. Giving yourself the time to prepare ahead to talk about the nitty gritty of questions and concerns you may have will help the entirety of the process go as smoothly as possible.

Don’t be super defensive

When going into an IEP meeting, one of the biggest mistakes that parents make is that they are on the defensive.

It is definitely a great thing to advocate for your child, to love them, and to deeply care about them. While taking every remark personally and feeling attacked is a natural response to the happenings of the IEP process, it might not be the best response. Instead of being on the defensive, try a new way of communicating conflict management.

Direct and unemotional communication is key

When communication experts break down conflict management, they put it into four quadrants. It looks like this: (Insert picture of conflict management).

Experts agree that the most effective way of communicating during high-stress situations is to do so in a manner that is direct and unemotional, as it can bring about the greatest resolution.  Not passive-aggressive, not angry, not defensive, but respectful, receptive, and direct communication is certainly the most effective. Spending time fretting about the particulars and taking offense to things may not be the best use of time, as it doesn’t allow for teachers, paraprofessionals, and caseworkers to get to the subject at hand, which is your child’s schooling.

Treat everyone in the room with the same respect you want for you and your child. Giving the school the opportunity to speak about your kiddo’s situation at school without getting emotionally charged is one of the greatest ways that you can help the IEP process along.

When responding to the difficulties your child may have in school, remember that they are not trying to offend you, but rather identify a roadblock your kiddo may have. Don’t take it personally. It’s not meant to be taken personally.

This is a simple rule that some people who are in emotionally charged situations do, but please don’t forget it: try not to interrupt. If you have questions or concerns to vocalize, write them down while the other person is talking. At a point where it’s more respectful for you to enter a conversation, state the questions or concerns you have, and try to be receptive to the response.

You are certainly under no obligation to like the suggestions or answers you may be getting, but it is still important that you remember how important it is that everyone gets a chance to speak.

Encourage your child’s independence

While it might be easiest for you to ensure that your child succeeds by working directly with and for them, it might not be the best thing for you to do. Allowing your kiddo to make mistakes and learn from them encourages their independence, self-soothing, and problem-solving skills. Ensuring that the individuals who are writing your child’s IEP understand the same thing, it can make things easier for your kiddo in the long run.

Going forward

IEPs are difficult. Advocating for your kiddo can be difficult. However, if you are able to communicate your thoughts, feelings, and concerns in an effective manner without taking offense to constructive criticism, it will help the stress of IEP meetings dissolve a little bit.


A morning routine for a kiddo with Autism

Just about everyone hates getting up in the morning. Would you rather be snuggled up in your bed sleeping through the birds chirping, or raring to go with the responsibilities of the day? It’s pretty obvious which one sounds a bit more relaxing, but everyone has to get up at some point.

Getting everyone out the door and on their way to work, school, or practice can be a tough ordeal. If you have a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, things of that nature can be specifically challenging. Kiddos on the spectrum oftentimes have trouble with sequencing, executive functioning, and finishing tasks can be difficult.

The morning can be especially tough, because kiddos may be groggy, grumpy, and a bit less willing to comply in a timely manner, which can infringe on everyone’s days. That’s where morning routines come in handy.

Morning routines aren’t just for Pinterest mood boards or YouTube lifestyle videos. Sure, just about everyone needs a good morning routine. But they can be a handy tool to help a kiddo with ASD visualize and complete tasks that help them get ready to tackle the remainder of the day.

What your morning routine might look like

In short, traditionally, morning routines are a list of tasks that an individual wants to complete before they leave the house for work. Morning routines often look like the following

  • Make bed
  • Open curtains
  • Brush teeth
  • Make breakfast
  • Eat breakfast
  • Take 2 minutes to meditate
  • Drink coffee while listening to Yo-Yo Ma
  • Put on clothes for the day
  • Put on socks and shoes

What your kiddo with ASD’s morning routine might look like

However, for kiddos with Autism, morning routines might be better followed if they’re visual…

Oh… what could this be?

A visual morning routine in primary colors that you can print out? Made by eSpecial Needs? Could it be?!

Yes, it is..

Click here to download the PDF.



Mornings don’t have to be chaotic.

Sure, it might take a long time for your kiddo to get in the habit of following a visual schedule in the mornings to get out the door. But with time, practice, and patience, they’ll be on their way to independently getting themselves ready for school!


What’s the difference between special needs strollers and wheelchairs?

For individuals with limited mobility, assistive transportation is a must. There is not always a lot of readily available information as to which adaptive equipment may be right for your child.

According to Emily Martin, OT, the main difference between strollers and wheelchairs is oftentimes an age thing. For example, an occupational therapist may recommend a parent to get their child a stroller if they are not yet in school.


We can’t stress enough how important it is to properly measure a child to be fitted for either a stroller or a wheelchair. Measuring them thoroughly and reading the guidelines, consulting an occupational therapist, and contacting the company from which you are purchasing equipment ensures that the individual benefits from the adaptive equipment

Age appropriateness and mobility

A parent may want the ease of being able to position their child in a special needs stroller when their child is preschool age, but as they get older, a parent may want their child to learn autonomous, self-sufficient skills.

For younger kiddos, it may be easier to push them around in a stroller. For school-age kiddos, it may be more age appropriate for them to move around, whether it’s a motorized wheelchair or just one where they have to turn the wheels.

Positioning and support

Depending on the abilities of the individual, positioning is a pretty big factor to consider. Special needs strollers have varying degrees of postural support, based on the needs of the individual who may benefit from it. However, special needs strollers are often designed like that of a sling, which does not always help with hip and leg support. As children grow older, they may need to spend significantly more time in a structured, positioned and supportive seating system to help with alignment.

In short, a therapist should be able to know and cater to the independence, mobility, and positioning needs of an individual who may benefit from a wheelchair or a special needs stroller.

Rolling on

In short, listen to your therapist. Measure your kiddo. Measure them again, and then double-check with the company you are buying from to ensure that you are getting the right stroller or wheelchair for your loved one with special needs.