Sometimes you’re moving along through life, feeling like you have certain things down, know others to be true, and something happens that just completely rocks your world and makes you question everything you’ve done as a parent.

Or something like that.

A few days ago, a Facebook friend and fellow parent of a kid with Down syndrome posted an article about the relative merits of bringing food to IEP meetings. I stared at the computer, mouth literally hanging open.

Before I go any farther, let it be said that I am 100 percent in favor of gifts, including food, for everyone at my kids’ school from the crossing guard to the principal. Back to school gifts, teacher appreciation gifts, Christmas cookies, valentines — I’ve even been known to send round challahs during the Jewish holidays.  I like to connect on a personal level with the people who spend so much time and effort on my kid and ours is not a school where a lot of gift giving goes on, for whatever reason. As far as I’m concerned, teachers should be showered daily.

The gift giving argument is one for another day, though. I’m talking more specifically today about food at IEP meetings.

The IEP meeting is federally mandated and designed to create a document that gets a lot of scrutiny — a roadmap, in essence, for your kid with special needs. It’s arguably one of the most important sessions of the year. I’ve been through many, with a kid in seventh grade, and I can say that I’ve had my share of contentious IEP meetings, as well as uneventful and even a few downright pleasant sessions. But never with food.

To me, that’s like eating in church, one of the few times of the year when I have no appetite.

It never occurred to me — the one who made it my business to know the kindergarten teacher’s standing order at Starbucks, the principal’s dietary restrictions — to bring food to an IEP meeting.

Instead, when Sophie was in third grade, I started to bring a lawyer.

It would have been a lot cheaper to bring a bagel platter.

Do you bring food to IEP meetings? I’ve got one next week.

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Tags: Filed under: Down syndrome, Uncategorized by Amysilverman

18 Responses to “Should I Be Bringing Food to My Daughter’s IEP Meetings?”

  1. Special Ed teacher and Special ed Mom here- I have never brought or had a parent bring food to an iep meeting. Or 504 meeting, or any of the other “are you really following the plan” meetings. I have brought an advocate though!

  2. I’ve taken to bringing food for 504 meetings as they have typically been right after school and I figure the teachers might want a snack. And, I am not above subtle bribery. FYI, the mini chocolate croissants from Whole Foods were a big hit.

  3. Thank you Amy Silverman. As a former teacher, I always appreciated parents who were so thoughtful and appreciative, often expressed by plying me with food. But fact is, parents should not want school members of the IEP Team making decisions when they’re sidetracked by hunger and focused on what they’ll be having for dinner.

  4. Yes, I used to always bring food. I tend to be a “by the book” type of person and that’d what the Wrightslaw book I read had suggested. As we got more savvy as parents, and relationships with the school folks broke down, I stopped bringing food. I figured it was odd to feed people who were clearly distasteful of our presence. Eventually we traded the food for a lawyer. Now we’re in round II of due process litigation. Can’t really say either the food or the lawyer has been much of a help.

  5. C’pher’s ISP (the aged out of school version of the IEP) was last week . . .8 in the morning . .wayyyyy to early for a meeting so I did the next best thing to dancing – I served bagels xxxx s

  6. I’ve been bringing snacks to IEP’s almost since we started going to IEP’s 18 years ago. They are always appreciated by everyone involved. Even in the most contentious IEP’s showing good will to start helps: Start as you mean to finish. As my son has gotten older and IEP’s have gotten progressively easier, the teachers and therapists know I will be bringing something they like (fruit, cookies) and they enjoy our meetings even more. Little things go a long way, year in and year out.

  7. As an Educational Advocate, I spend a lot of time in IEP meetings, some with food, most without. However, I do notice a kinder and more appreciative demeanor when parents have taken the time to provide food to the participants. To be honest, I never touch the food during the meetings and neither do most of the participants until they have been there for hours and feeling depleted. Usually if they do eat the food it is usually near the end of the meeting and miraculously, they walk out revitalized and happier- if only due to the sugar high. In all instances, there are always many words of appreciation when the food is brought and it may just “sweeten” the outcome a little.

    I often advise parents at the beginning of a school year to provide their child’s teacher(s) with a bright copy of the 504 or IEP plan, with a Starbuck’s card or tasty treat attached, telling the teachers to enjoy the snack as they read through the document!

  8. I’m so sorry you are having challenges. I hope things resolve themselves….

  9. oh no, we have ISP’s too! i need to rethink that, as well. :) i will say that we’ve had people come to the house for years and i always offer coffee and it’s almost always rejected, but i do understand — as a journalism i never take anything when i go into someone’s house…. and not just for moral reasons!

  10. I’ve never brought food. It would be so distracting to me personally and brings up plenty of etiquette complexities that I don’t think add anything. I’m fortunate enough to have a really wonderful team to work with though, and I don’t judge any parent for doing whatever they feel helps the camaraderie in the room.

  11. I’m a teacher who has never been to an IEP or 504 meeting where food was provided, offered, or served. This never even occurred to me and strikes me as (even though it’s a small deal in the scheme of things, maybe) inappropriate. Would you bring food to a deposition or a mediation (I’m thinking of my surreal divorce mediation at the county courthouse)? Into a courtroom? Some people don’t consider teaching a “real” profession (those who can’t, teach). Our salaries prove that. Turning an important (this cannot be overstated) legal proceeding into something like a church social or a prom committee meeting doesn’t serve teaching, the process, or, most importantly, the child whose education is at the center of the meeting.

    I can also tell sad stories of the many IEP/504 meetings where parents — or students — could not or did not even attend. And stories of meetings where advocates, lawyers, parents, and children ALL attend. Those are, without a doubt, the most productive and meaningful meetings.

    Sidenote: I teach AP (11th grade) and write A LOT of high stakes letters of recommendation. I hand out an etiquette how-to to my students (gathered from many such college handouts) and nowhere on it do I suggest “Buy me a present” or “Bribe me with food.” Thanks, of course, is expected, as is a follow-up. I have received many many lovely thank you notes. And some Starbucks cards, cookies, etc. I keep the notes forever.

  12. Yes, we brought food. Start from a good place… It may be traded for a lawyer as time goes on. Know your rights, know what you want, bring food and a smile; have a back up plan with a lawyer if needed….

  13. I’m a Special Ed teacher and I have had a few parents bring food, but I always find it a bit awkward. I’m trying to read the IEP aloud and talk through goals with parents. Parents are trying to make sure we do what is best for their kid. It’s hard to do that while you are eating. I have a hard time being professional while eating a brownie. If you want to bribe me…send me chocolate and coffee through the year, not at the IEP meeting :)

  14. An IEP meeting with treats…I have three boys who regularly had IEP meetings, and such an idea as treats never crossed my mind. It is a place for a box of kleenex, and a dignified demeanor, if possible, as the tenderest hopes and dreams you have for for your child are clinically examined. I was filled with anxiety before and after every meeting I had. The boys attended, and sometimes cried. I went to every one, and cried, sometimes, myself. I spared my husband- he really took those meetings hard. Hilariously, my youngest started attending the meetings in a suit and tie in high school. He eloquently advocated for himself, even getting up and using the white board to illustrate a point. His advisor took a picture of him at that meeting with his iphone. Ah, it all works out in the end.

  15. Yes, I’ve brought food. I’ve also brought pictures and do-dads from her life, so all parties involved could see a better picture of her. Remember when you were a kid and you ran into your teacher at the grocery store? Remember at how strange that felt to see someone out of context? I rely on the opposite to be true when I bring elements of a more-rounded view of my child. I bring in things to help them see her OUTside of the school environment.

    And I’ve brought lawyers. So, yeah. It’s a weird life.

  16. Whatever it takes, right? xo

  17. This is exactly the discussion I was looking for. I have attended many IEP Meetings along with other related meetings like staffings and the dreaded ” why are you breaking federal law and not accommodating my child” meetings…I have never brought food. However, now that my child is being educated fairly at his school I am tempted to bring food to the next meeting but as was mentioned I don’t want it to feel like I am trying to bribe them or make it awkward.

  18. Nathan is 14yrs old he was diagnosed with Aspergers at 8yrs after senpding 3yrs of Primary School in a Behaviour Support Unit seeing things he should not have been exposed to.The nightmare to come started at Secondary School, he was sent home on the 4th day because the staff could not cope, he was regularly bullied, verbally and physically, he would run off and try to come home. Luckily one special Teaching Assistant (Rob) formed a bond with Nathan and gradually by the end of the first year there was an improvement. Starting the second year, unknown to me they drastically changed the support, replacing Rob with a new T.A. Nathan’s behaviour deteriorated over the term and he was blamed for his behaviour, culminating in him being excluded. Nathan hit back at a pupil who had hit him and when a teacher tried but failed to restrain him Nathan was accused of pushing the teacher, the school did not believe Nathan had been provoked and took no action against the other pupil, when i told the Headteacher of a dozen incidents where Nathan had been bullied/assaulted, he suggested i move him to another school. I took the school to a Disability Discrimination Tribunal, the Judge decided that Nathan’s deterioation was to be expected because of his disability and the school was not at fault as it was not expected to have any expertise in Aspergers ! So we moved Nathan to another mainstream school 5 miles away with a new Autism Centre attached, we thought he would be better understood, WRONG! One day he became so stressed that he tried to leave, he was physically restrained by two teachers, he went berserk so they locked him in a small room, he had a meltdown and trashed the room, he was excluded for his behaviour! (later retracted) I told the staff not to restrain or confine him again as it makes him worse but they did it another two times, he shattered a panel of safety glass in a panic to get out (they sent me the bill for repair.. later retracted) i told them it was barbaric, i kept him off school and threatened to home school him, the psycologist advised against this. Nathan went back after Christmas, the staff backed right off and left him to make his own choices, he chose not to go to any lessons (although in advanced Maths, top of Science and good at Technology and Media) they thought boredom would change his mind, a wasted term later WRONG! he became dissafected and frustrated, i was called almost every day to go and pick him up. I had kept in contact with Rob the T.A. from the previous school and he came to our rescue. Such was his commitment to Nathan, Rob changed his job and went to work with Nathan at school, now 6months later Nathan is back on track and doing well, he only does mornings at present and does not access all of the curiculum, although reports say he will not fulfill his potential he is a lot happier thanks to Rob, i cannot imagine where we would be without him.In two years time Nathan will leave this school then i see only more problems ahead, The Education System and The Disability Discrimination Act have been no help to us in my opinion, in later life Nathan may well be haunted by his experiences and i fear he does not stand a chance in the real world.

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