short excerpts...other writings...upon occasion or as prompted...
The tiger in the water? A representation of my life -- spirit and environment!


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Make Your Desire the Other Person's, Too

The easiest way to make your desire the other person's, too, is to ask questions. Often, a very simple question, asked sincerely and unemotionally, gets another person to see things your way very quickly. The following questions were raised at Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings for my children. They are just a few of the many situations where simple questions, calmly asked, can create an immediate change of heart.

Before the beginning of one IEP meeting that my husband and I feared would produce verbal promises for Noelle's education that the school had no intention of fulfilling or putting into writing -- we had had experience in this area before -- we asked a very simple question, "May we tape this meeting?"

By law, we had the right to tape, so the question was understood as pro forma. We did tape the meeting, but we did not need to. All agreements at that meeting were put into writing and accomplished.

Here is another question that will get an administrator's attention very quickly. When my younger, multiply-handicapped son's high school refused to put reading and other academic goals into his IEP, saying that such goals were inappropriate for Doah, I asked, "May I share with the media the view of school officials that literacy is not an appropriate goal for all children in the public schools?" Very quickly, reading was added to the IEP.

At an even more difficult meeting, when the best program for Doah was at a school that was not conveniently located in our home area, officials arbitrarily and adamantly refused to place him there, clearly because of transportation inconvenience, not for educational reasons. Pressed for time to get Noelle to a medical appointment, I suggested that we had obviously reached an impasse in discussions and that I had to leave but would let the group, without me, choose how to answer my final question. I told them I could be completely flexible: I would accept either option they preferred.

My question? Would they prefer to have a few days to figure out how to place Doah in the most appropriate program (the one we had identified) or to figure out how to present their position in court?

They did not even ask for time to discuss the question. They immediately agreed to the placement we wanted -- which worked out so well that when the teacher was transferred to another school, Doah was transferred with her!

In all cases, our desire quickly became the other person's when we reframed the question. In all three cases, we developed warm, long-term relationships with the administrators involved.


Excerpted and adapted from a collection of vignettes I published, copyright 2003.


  1. Our son has an IEP. This is an interesting thread of topics. I'm sure I can glean some negotiating skills by listening in.


  2. Two of my children, now grown, had their education shaped by IEPs. The IEPs are only as good as the teacher and parent -- how well they each know the child and how well they work together. I have had to fight with some teachers; others have taught me good things; one has a picture of Doah on her desk to this day, 20 years later! Good luck with that IEP!


About Me

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I am the mother of 4 birth children (plus 3 others who lived with us) and grandmother of 2, all of them exceptional children. Married for 42 years, I grew up in Maine, live in California, and work in many places in education, linguistics, and program management. In my spare time, I rescue and tame feral cats and have the scars to prove it. A long-time ignorantly blissful atheist converted by a theophanic experience to Catholicism, I am now a joyful catechist. Oh, I also authored a dozen books, two under my pen name of Mahlou (Blest Atheist and A Believer-in-Waiting's First Encounters with God).

My Other Blogs

100th Lamb. This is my main blog, the one I keep most updated.

The Clan of Mahlou
. This is background information about various members of the extended Mahlou family. It is very much a work still in progress. Soon I will begin posting excerpts from a new book I am writing, Raising God's Rainbow Makers.

Modern Mysticism. This blog discusses the mystical in our pragmatic, practical, realistic, and rational 21st century world and is to those who spend some or much of their time in an irrational/mystical relationship with God. If such things do not strain your credulity, you are welcome to follow the blog and participate in it.

Recommended Reading List

Because I am blog inept, I don't quite know how to get a reading list to stay at the end of the page and not disappear from sight. Therefore, I entered it as my first post. I suppose that is not all that bad because readers started commenting about the books, even suggesting additional readings. So, you can participate with others in my reading list by clicking here.
I do post additional books as I read them and find them to be meaningful to me, and therefore, hopefully, meaningful to you. One advantage of all the plane traveling I do is that I acquire reading time that I might not otherwise take.