An IEP is an “Individualized Education Program” which

defines the individualized objectives [for] a child who has been found [to have] a disability … [and] is intended to help children reach educational goals more easily than they otherwise would. … [T]he IEP must be tailored to the individual student’s needs … and must especially help teachers and related service providers … understand the student’s disability and how the disability affects the learning process.”

In other words, his teacher, special education teacher, speech teacher, the principal or vice principal, and we as his parents, all sit down and talk about what is going well, what is needed, and what the upcoming year IEP plan is going to look like.

We meet at least once a year as required by law, and sometimes more than that when we think something needs to be altered, or if they school thinks something needs to be changed.

For us, a meeting that goes well is usually filled with brainstorming and sharing ideas. As the school principal once said to me: “You’ve taught me how to think outside of the box.”

A meeting that goes well recognizes how the child has worked so hard and come so far. The Navigator’s speech teacher has called him her “rock star,” the child that explained how it was done to other children there for similar learning. 

A good meeting means that both parents feel like things are going well. Autism Dad once described our IEP meetings like this

We have a team that has jelled well – and I didn’t think it was going to jell – it almost feels too easy, now. We have aligned as a united team, the teachers are pulling their weight and engaged, listening to our hopes and wishes, and I am not feeling push-back that I was worried about.

I feel blessed to have a trusted resource and that our son is blossoming with all they are doing for him. It has been a wonderful experience. We have requested formats and specific tools to be utilized daily in his classroom and they have applied those. They bring different ideas to the table and as a team we have produced powerful, usable tools for our son.

This success is, in part, due to a “yes” culture at the school, starting with the Principal and it is carried throughout by the staff from the school Secretaries, the nurse, and the teachers.

When an entity like a school embraces a “yes” culture, it means that there is the freedom, the “permission,” to try new ideas, to experiment, and even fail, with the goal of doing things better.

It is a safe environment in which people can do their jobs. And our son thrives because of it.

This “yes” culture does not exists everywhere. On social media where parents of children with Autism are engaged, I read many, many stories of schools horribly, painfully failing children because the schools have a culture of “no.”

In the blog Autism and Oughtisms, a parent described how when looking to enroll her child at a school, she was met with a variety of different “no’s” – being told there was not enough money to meet her child’s needs, that there would be difficulty in making it work, even the front-office staff felt unwelcoming to her.

Two years later, with a new principal in place, the culture had shifted to a “yes” culture and meeting her son’s needs was embraced. What had changed was the leadership and the culture of “yes” the leader brought to the table.

A culture of “yes” starts from a place of confidence and empowerment with a clear vision of mission and goals.

Everyone knows what they need to do to fulfill the mission and achieve the goals and works towards them.

A culture of “no” starts from a place of fear – fear of change, fear of inconvenience, fear of “getting into trouble,” and a lack of commitment to a mission and goals.

It is a control-based culture, of micro-management and restrictions, rather than a culture of trust and letting good people do their jobs well.

In a perfect world, the culture of “yes” would exist at every school as a given, the entitlement of every child and family. Sadly, the perfect world is yet to be achieved.

We are grateful for the culture of “yes” at our son’s school, through which our son has blossomed and continues to succeed.qtq80-jq9fva