The Case Against Long ARDs/IEPs

A Sunday piece in the New York Times (Tierney, John, “Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?” Aug. 17, 2011) explained something we figured out instinctively in the Wolfe house a long time ago — don’t make important decisions when you’re tired.

Tierney explains the nuance to it, and its whys and hows. The ability to make good decisions fluctuates; it’s not an inherent trait or a cultivated talent.

(And, as I hoped in taking my GRE in college, a bar of chocolate really does help.)

Tierney, a respected science writer, reports:

… studies show that people with the best self-control are the ones who structure their lives so as to conserve willpower. They don’t schedule endless back-to- back meetings. They avoid temptations like all-you-can-eat buffets, and they establish habits that eliminate the mental effort of making choices. Instead of deciding every morning whether or not to force themselves to exercise, they set up regular appointments to work out with a friend. Instead of counting on willpower to remain robust all day, they conserve it so that it’s available for emergencies and important decisions.

Which leads me to marathon ARD meetings, those all-day deals to decide what educational goals — and resources — will be devoted to your child for an entire year.

That whole go-around-the-table report thing? That can wear you down like a bride and groom trying to decide what to register for.

And plodding through each individual goal? You may just take the recommendation, rather than contribute to meaningfully to the weighing of different values.

As if special needs parents aren’t worn down to begin with. Yet, parents aren’t part of ARD meeting preparations. They need to review test results and be able to check for their own understanding of the findings. They need to understand the goals and objectives of the speech therapist, the teacher, the occupational therapist, the counselor. More than ever, I’m convinced that the document dump and stilted discussion that occurs at typical ARD meetings guarantees parents will have damaging decision-fatigue, and in the way that Tierney describes it.

We never put a lot of stock in most of the meetings … as long as resource and treatment options were open. We worked on goals for Sam in other ways.

But for parents who have a lot riding on the outcome of the meetings, it’s no wonder that they can turn hostile.

Just like the salesman who wears you down in order to raise his commission, you feel taken. Combine that with the ferociousness any parent has in protecting their child, and you’ve got a meltdown in the making.

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