Believe in yourself, you know your child best
One thing I didn’t anticipate with parenting special needs children was the amount of form-filling and meetings, meetings with professionals who will make big decisions around the children, based on a few bits of paper.
There are meetings around education (Statement Review meetings, IEP meetings – Individual Education Plan, SenCo – Special Educational Needs Co-ordination) and meetings which cross over (Occupational Therapy and CAMHS), meetings around their health and well-being (diagnosis paediatrician, clinic meetings) and then there are the meetings around future schooling (we are currently having to whittle down potential secondary school choices for T, our high-functioning autistic but wonderful son).
It all takes time and energy, energy which is sometimes in short supply, but there is the knowledge that if a meeting is postponed by ourselves, goodness knows when it would get re-scheduled. Time seems to be money.
And that is how I feel in some of these meetings, our children are not regarded as individuals, but merely budget figures on a spreadsheet. It used to get to me but then I remembered attending school governors meetings where children are treated as just that, and – in this particular school – special needs children were seen as a negative percentage on the SATS outcome.
The best way I have found to prepare for these meetings, is to do just that:
Write everything down that you want to say, even things that you are sure you’ll remember, because chances are … you won’t. Discussing our SN children can be emotional, especially if the professional is not regarding them as an individual, but more a hindrance and a budget figure. When we sent in the papers to get T referred for a diagnosis, I wrote down everything I could think of and remember and it helped speed things along.
Take a bottle of water with you. It’s very rare to get offered a drink and if there is a lot of discussion, throats can get dry and that makes you more reluctant to speak up.
Similarly, tissues. Never forget tissues. I used to cry in successful and unsuccessful meetings, just because the subject was one of my children, who I happen to love very much.
And … if it helps, if it feels like the meeting is more geared to budgets than the child, call up a photo on your phone, put it on the table and say “this is who we’re discussing, not a figure on a piece of paper”.
Above all, believe in yourself, you know your child best.
This is my meeting “kit”, it makes me feel organised and professional and I hope gives the impression that I’m in control and know what I’m talking about (even if I’m crying inside).
How do you handle your meetings?