Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My "Suck Up Cookies"

I am often asked how I have managed to get so many services in place for K on her IEP at school.  It has not been an easy road.  There have been twists, turns, and downright nasty confrontations in the past, but eventually we created a solid document that is followed by the team at school.  Nasty confrontations aside, I attribute some of our success to one thing:  baking.

Long ago, when I worked a "real" job (stop me from laughing right now because this job is way harder than any I ever got paid for), I discovered that the quickest way to get what you want is to kill them with kindness.  This is, in my experience, a generally good idea for life.  Being kind never has a downside.  Back then, killing with kindness usually involved looking for something positive about another person, offering sincere compliments, or lending a sympathetic ear.  I still try to find something to like about any person I meet.  Some people make that really hard to do, so I'm not always successful.  There have been some people like that on our IEP team at times.  That makes it exponentially harder, because we are supposed to be helping my extra-special child and everyone knows that a mad mama bear ought not be crossed.

Now, it's all about baking.  When we began this journey with K, I made many mistakes.  For example, at my first IEP meeting, I was asked to describe K's strengths.  I answered along the lines of, "She's happy, easy to get along with, and very charming."  Those are, in fact, some of her strengths.  A year later, I figured out that they weren't asking about that.  They wanted to know what her school-related strengths were and from that same perspective, about her school-related weaknesses.  Ooohhhhhh.  Chalk one up to "inexperienced mom unwittingly sabotaging her own credibility."  Whoops!

As things progressed, I got smarter and slightly more savvy.  Once, we had to gear up for a big request that would likely be rejected, although we strongly believed the service we wanted for K was absolutely necessary for her to access her education.  Big meeting scheduled and I've got everything I can have in place, including an advocate.  I'm nervous, stressed out, stopped sleeping about a week beforehand and I need to try and kill these people with kindness when I'd really rather crawl across the table and wring someone's neck.  So, what do I do?  I bake.

I have found that showing up with yummy food always makes things a bit easier.  If the meeting is scheduled for the morning, then I offer to bring Starbuck's.  It's a worthwhile investment, let me tell you.  I've baked brownies (from a mix but who's telling?), muffins (from scratch!) for the early morning meetings, and cookies.  Lots and lots of cookies.  I call them my "Suck Up Cookies."  There is no specific recipe for Suck Up Cookies.  It is different every time, but the sentiment remains the same.  People are always happier when they have a full belly and I make sure to tempt them as best I can.  Sometimes, no one eats a thing, but I don't let that bother me.  I keep bringing the treats!

There are really so many things that go in to building a strong team to support your extra-special child.  Knowledge of your extra-special child and her particular challenges is crucial.  You are the expert on your child, no matter what the diagnosis is or how much time a teacher spends in the classroom with her.  At a meeting, I once said, "You may be the experts in your field of education, but I have a Ph.D. in my daughter."  Finding some personal common ground with members of your team is good, too.  I think that the more personally connected they are to you and your child, the more likely they will be to work with you to the benefit of your child.  No amount of baking in the world can replace a cooperative team, but it sure doesn't hurt!  Our team now knows to expect something good from me and I'm happy to oblige.  Some of them even know that I call them my "Suck Up Cookies."  We laugh together, knowing that I'm joking...sort of.

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