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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Special Education: 10 IEP Survival Tips from the Trenches

From the San Francisco Chronical's Blog - SFGate

By Laura Shumaker
February 23, 2013

I did not enjoy the IEP process. I dreaded them weeks in advance, cried during, and went into a decline after they were over. It turns out that I had it all wrong. IEP’s can be fun, or at least bearable.

This is the article that I could have used during those years, and was written with the help of my autism forum on Facebook. You can find MANY more tips from the forum here.

1. Be organized. Read “The Complete IEP Guide” by L. Siegel. Remember that you are working to develop an individual plan for your child, not trying to fit your child into the school’s program. It’s also smart to study Wrights Law and attend a training like this.

2. Don’t go in expecting to have to fight. Go in with the attitude everyone wants the best for your child. Kindness, listening, and an open mind gets so much more than an immediate defensive mindset. Presume positive intent.

3. Be involved with your child’s school. Offer to help out. Have a pre-IEP meeting with the people in the school to avoid surprises. Bringing an advocate could irritate the situation if not worked effectively. Have the IEP be flexible and have frequent interaction with the school.

As a parent, you are you child's best advocate.

4. Remember that the special education team cares about your child. Don’t go in thinking it is “us” vs. “them”. Remember, no one ever goes into the field of special education without wanting to help students. The specialists chose this field to help your child.

5. Always get a draft copy of the IEP before the meeting. This will allow you and your support people time to process all the info and make your own notes.

6. Go in with a notebook and your questions written down. Ask for people’s names and write that down too. Write up your own synopsis of your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Get contact information for the key people in your district, not just the special education people. Then follow up and make sure that what’s been agreed to is actually happening. Become kind of a fixture at school too, if they know you’re involved things are more likely to be dealt with properly. An IEP is not carved in stone, it should be fluid so it can adapt as your child grows up.

7. Bring food or coffee for everyone. It sets the tone for a friendly meeting.

8. Know what works and what doesn’t with your child. If there are things that work at home, those should be carried over to a classroom environment.

9. Write your own “report” to submit to the IEP, just like all the other professionals. Describe your child’s strengths and weaknesses, your areas of concern and recommendations for goals etc. Then it becomes part of the IEP that all team member have a copy of.

10. Bring a case worker/advoacte through your local developmental disability organization to meetings. They know of a plethora of options and resources available for your child.

The Perspective of a Mom/SLP in Connecticut

“As a mom of a child with autism and a school speech and language therapist, I can say that an IEP is a work in progress. It’s a fluid, dynamic document designed to support your child. It should be realistic in it’s implementation, not just a wish list of cures for specific disabilities. You should also receive data about progress (not just quarterly reports) and a home program for carry over of skills. I’ve also found involving children in extra curricular activities with peers helps bring about more natural progression of skills. Educate yourself, fight for rights when concerns are just, enjoy the differences in your child for each of us is unique and has something to offer members of families, school and society as a whole.”