The Wilder Side by Teri Wilder: A Pathfinder Community Blog

Internalize Nothing!

There's a lot to be said for personality types: Introvert/Extrovert, Type A or Type B personalities, and so forth.  So how can the personalities in the room impact your child's IEP? 

Easily! Different personality types can clash when put into a room together or when continually butting heads over issues.  Sometimes, the impact of an individual's personality can determine whether the services the child needs are provided or not, but why?  I'd say it's simple, but it really isn't when you sit down to think about it.  Depending on your personality type, it can impair your ability to advocate appropriately for your child, if you allow it to. 

Let's start with introverts for example.  An introverted (sometimes known as shy, anxious, or uncertain) individual may be hesitant in participating in a meeting to the fullest extent.  This type of individual may feel uncertain of their role and intimidated by the number of people in the room and their educational experiences.  Sometimes, an introvert may simply sit back and let the team make the decisions regarding their child's needs because they don't know how to participate or what to do/say.  This occurs quite frequently when a parent is not aware of their rights or that they're the most important member of the team because they are the expert on their child.  I assure you parents, you are important in this process and making sure that you have a voice in meetings is highly important for your child to receive the most appropriate services based on his/her needs.  

An extroverted individually, for example, can be quite the opposite and very involved in a team process.  An extrovert (sometimes considered outgoing, the center of attention, or a talkative person) can be effective in pushing for what their child needs, but may become overly involved in the child's special education.  This is an individual that may take over the meeting or have a full agenda of items that they would like to have addressed before the end of the meeting, which can take a lot of time and prevent the team from focusing on the IEP itself.  While it's important to be heard and have your child's needs understood, there is a line to be drawn that reviews what the child's needs are in accessing a free and appropriate education (FAPE) and what your wants are for your child.  The school need only provide services that help a child access FAPE and nothing more which, is at the the discretion of the school for the most part. 

While I have presented you with two very extreme definitions of these two personality types, it is important to say at this point that these views are not the views of Pathfinder Parent Center, but of Teri Wilder herself who has drawn on her background in Psychology to present this method of looking at the personality types in a room.  So, moving on...

Again, these are two extreme's of the personality types presented to you, but everyone is different and these personality types can range from extreme to mild.  What we do know is that when you get a group of people together, you're bound to have conflict.  The trick is in mastering that conflict despite your personality or everyone else's personality or approach to the situation.  As an introvert myself, I have a tendency to fade into the wallpaper when I'm not sure what to say and so, I've had to force myself into situations that push my boundaries and make me uncomfortable.  The trick is to not internalize what's happening around you and be open to change, which may just be you speaking up in a meeting.  If you do not speak up, then how do you expect to get the things that your child needs?  You know your child best, so think of yourself as the qualified expert in the room on your child.  As an extrovert, your natural tendency may be to talk, a lot, and never know you're doing it.  Do your meetings run so long that a 2nd, or even 3rd, meeting is necessary to finish things up or even get to the IEP meeting?  You may want to scale back and prioritize that list of things you want to address in order to make the best use of both yours and the teams time.  Also, being conscious and considerate of the various other personality types of team members may help you in determining your approach to working with your team.  If you are a natural introvert and avoid conflict, but the main person you keep butting heads with is an extrovert, there may be some help in identifying that you have differing attitudes or opinions and figuring out how to work around that to keep your child's needs at heart for everyone in the room. 

If you are introverted and unsure about your role in the team, then you can always contact us at Pathfinder to find out ways in which to approach your team and make sure your concerns are heard.  Likewise, if your extroverted and your team gets exasperated during every meeting because they never get anything done, we can help with that too.  Most often, the calls we get at Pathfinder are based on the fact that there's conflict in some way, shape, or form and we can help to reduce the tension in the room and get everyone on the same working page.  We want to help you because we know that without cooperation on both sides of the table, the needs that your child has will not be addressed to the fullest extent possible.  So let's focus on how we can work together and avoid internalizing the meeting process itself.