May 5th, 2012
If you're a new special needs parent, you will be crossing into some unfamiliar territory that your friends and peers may be ill equipped to help you with.
One specific item that is on my mind is the Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings. When you enroll your kids in school, you will be asked to sign and return a letter that outlines your rights as the parent of a special needs child and includes information about the IEP. You will also be given a copy for your records. It's important to read and understand this. If it is unclear, ask for clarification until it is crystal clear.
The IEP meeting revolves around Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), which is part of fulfilling the state's obligation and is required in the US. I personally take charge of this meeting. I control the direction it goes and get it back on track if it gets derailed. I also try to do it in the same order each time because I have found that I am less likely to forget or leave something out when it's standardized.
All of our experiences and our children needs are different, but I have a few recommendations to make the most of your meeting.
1. Be prepared. I make notes and determine what I want discussed prior to the meeting. While it may not sound like much, this is value-added homework. The problem is when parents and teachers get together, we begin telling stories. It's fun to talk about our kids, and it's especially fun to talk with someone else who knows them. Unfortunately, this is often how we lose track of time. If the meeting it kept on track, there will be time for telling war stories at the end, after all of the important points have been addressed. Having written notes and a plan prevents the meeting being derailed. It's pretty easy to point to your notes and explain the need for keeping the meeting moving. This method has yet to offend anyone I am aware of.
2. Take the meeting seriously. This might seem trivial but I advise that you start by dressing like you're attending a meeting, not like you just took a break from mowing the lawn or cleaning the house to attend. I think this helps the staff and others professionals in attendance take you seriously.
3. Make sure everyone who is needed is invited. You don't want to allow for unfinished business at the end of the meeting. The people who should attend, in my opinion, are:
· A representative of the administration who will be responsible for making sure you needs are funded and can clear any potential roadblocks.
· People who can commit to dates, tasks, and responsibilities. Otherwise you just wasted an hour of everyone's day.
· People in charge of the different disciplines involved. For example, speech pathologists and therapists.
· People tasked with assessing your child.
Typically the teacher will ask who you want to attend and make the invites. I don't typically invite aides. I work under the assumption that they are working closely with the teacher and that he/she can represent them.
4. Listen. God knows I am not the smartest fella in the world. These people are professionals who likely have some insights I did not consider.
5. Schedule enough time. The IEP meeting takes longer than a typical parent-teacher conference. You don't want to be rushed. I like to make it for an hour and prefer that it's the last meeting of the day for the school staff. That way if I go beyond the hour, I'm not infringing on someone else's meeting or getting rushed out of the room.
6. Determine who will record the meeting, then start with introductions. It's important to know who is around you.
7. Start off by discussing special needs. These are the things you believe are necessary for your child to receive a FAPE. Special needs are generally specific and to the point, which is why I like to start off meetings with them. They are also easy to forget if left to the end.
If you want something specific, this is the time to bring it up. Bring it up now and make sure it is included in the meeting minutes. If your child needs an aide for getting off the bus, going to lunch, being transported to or from therapy, constant supervision, etc., it must be included in the IEP plan or the school does not have to honor it. A special tray for eating or tactile seat for sitting needs to be in the plan.
If the school/attendees are unable or unwilling accommodate a need, it can be addressed either by appeal or other means. Make sure that everything is included in the minutes.
8. Cover goals next. Discuss the outcome of prior goals (all of them) then move on to new goals that are both achievable and challenging. I think it is helpful to complete the prior goals list first because it gives everyone time to digest the results before moving on to new goals.
I am not a big fan of making the next year's goals at the end of the year. I prefer to allow a week or so after the school year begins before setting goals for the new year. I do this because a lot can change in the summer, and things are forgotten. I like to give the teacher a little time to settle in too. We also do more than one IEP meeting (beginning, middle, and end of the year). The ongoing instruction from me is that if a goal is clearly not going to be met, I do not want to find out at the IEP. I want to know when they know a goal is in jeopardy. We can and will adjust a goal at any time.
Please make sure teachers understand that babysitting is not acceptable. I see this a lot in other schools.
9. When the meeting is over, read and sign off on the minutes. Usually a final draft is mailed later. I also kind of give a little pep talk where I sincerely congratulate people and thank them for the hard work. I also let them know I am excited about the plan we have chosen.
10. If time allows, indulge in war stories about the kids! I love them. Some bring tears to my eyes. I just love, love, love talking and listening to stories about my kids. If there isn't time for this, then at the very least try and end the meeting on a high note.
1 comments on "First Special Needs IEP: Are you ready?"
One thing I want to add is knowing your childs rights.
A great site to help with that is http://www.ncld.org/at-school/your-c...-childs-rights