Wednesday, April 11, 2007

If this is Spring, it must be IEPT time!

For many families, Spring brings with it the promise of increasing daylight hours, blooming flowers, fun outdoor activities, and thoughts of summer vacations-- and yes, an abundance of those pesky Individualized Education Program Team (IEPT) meetings that help state your child's goals and objectives and services for the next school year. (Sorry to sneak in the IEP with all that fun family stuff!).

The reality is that IEPs are often unnerving and frustrating events, even for the most well-prepared families. So here are five key tips to help you make the process a little less stressful, and increasingly productive. You can find more in my book Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs:Raising the Bar of Expectations.

Sometimes, the simplest actions can make you feel more empowered and effective!

First, you must believe in your child's value and their right to appropriate educational opportunities before ever setting foot in that meeting. Everything else stems from embracing this belief in your child. It will make you fearless. Do a gut check- what do you want for your child?

Educate yourself about the IEP process.
Do your homework before the meeting and answer the following questions: What exactly is an IEP? How important is it to your child? What does it include? What is your role in the process? How does the law support your child's educational needs? How does it all work? Several good resources can help you do just that, including:

Dress Professionally and Be on Time!
Listen without interrupting. Use good eye contact and sit up straight. Avoid profanity and threatening behaviors that escalate tension and do little if anything to help your child get what they need. Taking the high road can help you feel increasingly confident and competent in what is often an emotionally charged atmosphere. It may earn you more respect and support- and yes, even results. Look and act like the important team member that you are!

Use children-first language and request that others do the same. Don't allow others to define your child by disability or use limiting, negative labels and language to discuss him/her. Don't ignore your child's needs, but ask that all present address those needs in more positive, productive ways that focus on solutions, not problems. No child's potential should be limited because of negative perceptions from inappropriate or excessive use of labels.

Include your child in the IEPT meeting. They have a right to be there. It is their life everyone is discussing afterall.

Debrief after the meeting.
These meetings can take your breath away- and not in a good way! Adenaline is pumping and stress levels are high, no matter how well it all seemed to go. Take time to refuel and recover by doing something fun. Go out for pizza, take a walk, watch funny movies, or read your child his/her favorite story. End your day with some much-needed balance.

One final note: Never skip out on your child's IEPT meetings! If you don't care enough to advocate for your child's best future, and yours, why should anyone else? Make a better choice- one worthy of your child!

Remember: You are your child's first and most important teacher-and not just for a school year, but for life.
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Today is National Sibling Day 2007

Did you know that today is National Sibling Day?

That presents a great opportunity for families to recognize and celebrate the important sibling bond, especially in families with special needs. Perhaps in no other family is the sibling bond so incedibly challenged, yet so remarkably rewarding. The emotional and physical challenges these brothers and sisters face together often build a rock-solid bond and fierce loyalty that is too rarely understood by the rest of the world. It's often an inspiring bond to witness.

Take some time today to check in with all of the sibs in your household and talk about the gifts that come from the special sibling bond, regardless of the daily challenges presented. Perhaps this is a great time to open up that honest discussion, too.

Siblings in families living with special needs are my heroes. Today, I salute their valuable, life-changing roles!

They serve as a much-needed example to all of us.

For more information about siblings and special needs, including SIBSHOPS visit: The Sibling Support Project of the ARC of the United States, at
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Congratulations to NCAA Champs the MSU Hockey Team!

Congratulations to the Michigan State Spartans who got themselves a shiny new 2007 NCAA title! No, not in football, not in basketball (men's or women's) but for HOCKEY! Who would have thunk it????

Kudos to my Spartans who beat Boston College 3-1 last night.

Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Easter 2007

One of the things I love most about Easter, (besides decadent chocolate coconut eggs!), is the focus on spiritual renewal and new life. That gives us permission to experience our own seasonal rebirth, something especially comforting after a long, dreary Winter, or abstaining from red wine for Lent!

We get the chance to start anew, again!

No matter what other bad news is going on in our dangerous world, Spring always brings with it the marvel of new life. There's those spunky little flowers that push boldly through frozen ground, or swelling buds on tree branches that moments before seemed barren, and birds singing sweet melodies confidently at dawn, replacing all those annoying alarm clocks. Nature's orchestra is in full production with a glorious show worthy of Broadway- one not to be missed!

Dare I say it's even magical?

This week, take a needed break from your daily grind, the 24/7 news reports, and those worries about your child's next unnerving IEPT meeting, and notice the rites of Spring unfolding in your own backyard. Explore its meaning for your own life. Then start fresh.

Because after all the chocolate bunnies, marshmellow peeps, and grandma's leftover ambrosia salad and salty ham have been consumed, rebirth is the empowering message of Spring.

Try hard not to miss it.

Happy Easter!
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Calling all Artists Ages 16-25 with Disabilities!

Calling all artists ages 16-25 with special needs!

VSA Arts (I LOVE this organization!) is holding a 'National Juried Exhibition for Young Artists With Disabilities'. The theme is 'Driven'. The exhibition is sponsored by Volkswagen of America Inc., and there are big cash prizes!!

Postmarked deadline is June 29, 2007. So get busy!

To find out more, visit

Good luck!
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

National Public Radio Airs Piece on Eunice Kennedy Shriver

Kudos to National Public Radio's (NPR) Morning Edition for airing a well-deserved and well-produced piece today about Eunice Kennedy Shriver and her on-going work with Special Olympics.

I am a huge fan of this terrific woman and the organization she began as Camp Shriver in her backyard decades ago. Ms. Shriver has been one of my role models and a stellar example as I pursue my own passionate work on behalf of those with special needs. That's why I included a special tribute to Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Special Olympics (and an insightful interview with her son, Timothy Shriver, Chairman of the Board of Special Olympics) in my book Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations.

If you want to be reminded of the power of one person to take on a huge social justice issue and impact lasting, critical change, do yourself a favor and check out this morning's piece at and be sure to read the tribute in my book, too!

I feel better just knowing that Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and her family, are at work in the world. These people are terrific examples for the rest of us.

Now, what are you doing today to change a child's life?
Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations