Recently I went to a new doctor's office. I sat in the waiting room for just a few minutes before hearing my name. I followed this nice person down a hall into a room filled with people. There was a large table with many people seated around it and the nice person who escorted me pointed at a chair for me. I sat down and looked around the table, it felt a little like what I believe a firing squad would feel like. All eyes were on me.
After a few seconds, but what felt like minutes, one of the people spoke up. She introduced herself as the doctor, then one by one the introductions came rapid fire from around the table, a nurse, an office manager, someone from bookkeeping, the nurse practitioner, a physicians assistant, and another one or two people whose names and titles escape me. Everyone at the table seemed to know my name and something about me, yet I knew none of them.
Once the introductions were finished, it was decided the bookkeeper would talk first. He told me how billing would work, when I would need to pay, the amount I would need to pay, etc. Next, was the office manager, she told me about office hours, office protocol for scheduling appointments, canceling appointments, etc. After her was the nurse, then the nurse practitioner, the physicians assistant, the other people whose titles I had forgotten, and finally the doctor spoke. When they were all finished they asked me to sign some papers, if I had any questions, and handed me a stack of papers they said explained my rights as a patient.
I was so overwhelmed from the minute I walked into the room I became nervous. I had formulated a list of questions in my head that I wanted to ask the doctor but by the time the doctor spoke, my mind had gone numb. After the first or second person spoke and I was trying to process all they were telling me, I really didn't hear the third or fourth person. I was so unprepared, this was not like any other first meeting I had ever had. I left the meeting feeling all alone and confused.
Fortunately, this story is not real for me, however for just about every first IEP meeting a parent of a child with special needs attends at a public school, this is pretty close. If you are a parent getting ready to head into your first IEP meeting at a public school, take a friend, a family member, or an IEP Consultant like myself. If you are educator heading into your umpteenth IEP meeting, please remember that this could be overwhelming, scary, nervewracking, and mindnumbing for the parent. Be patient with them, encourage them, give them time to process what you've said, and most of all try to remember this story and be kind.