The IEP and Me

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Starting kindergarten with an IEP, that almost overwhelming document that is the ‘Individualized Education Program’, can be a most unsettling prospect when one’s child is transitioning from a special needs pre-school environment to the kindergarten where she is supposed to be in a ‘least restrictive environment’ (LRE) and where she/he can receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).

A LIVING Document

Our children’s IEP should not be static. It is and should continue to be a living document throughout their education. This can also mean throughout the school year as well. Please do not forget that as parents we can ask for an IEP meeting at anytime during the school year, not just the required annual IEP meeting that educational staff will schedule with us.

Working independently and with no stress!  Now that is a worthwhile goal.

Working independently and with no stress! Now that is a worthwhile goal.

Convening an IEP meeting can take up considerable time and resources in our children’s schools. So be aware too, that changes can be made to an IEP without convening the formal IEP meeting. However it is VERY important that specific communication of change requirements be met; each of the IEP team members must receive notification of the agreed upon changes. While the law does not spell out how, it does state that the communication be documented under the requirements of 34CFR 76.731 which are the administrative regulations in the department of education (EDGAR-Education Department General Administrative Regulations). Educators know these requirements. It’s a part of their education in order to be a certified teacher.

You MUST know …  Know What?

So what do you want for your budding student? It is important to keep the answer to this question in mind when preparing for this meeting with the school’s IEP team. And YES, I said prepare. As much as we have to do in each day … this is one very important ball you are juggling that you just don’t want to drop.  KNOW precisely what your expectations and concerns are and bring them to the table for discussion and resolution.

I had allot of concerns that, in my mind, had to be correctly addressed in my daughter’s IEP.  Our IEP meeting cycles in December, and it turned out to be the transition IEP meeting as well; transition from preschool to kindergarten. Premature in my mind as there were seven months between the IEP in December and her new school year as a kindergarten student. So many things in that IEP became red flags.

Well, lets see. Here are some of the things I wanted and had significant concerns for regarding her classroom experience and education:

  • To be able to socially engage in an appropriate way and to be accepted, not made fun of, and not emotionally abused because she is different, not so much by the teachers but by her peers
  • To begin to recognize the letters of the alphabet; to recognize her name, her sister and brother’s, her Uncle’s name, my name and her Creator’s name.
  • To keep ever in mind that she lacks good executive functioning capacity
  • To keep ever in mind that she has cognitive delays, impairing her ability to understand and process what is happening around her or expected of her
  • To understand how her receptive and expressive language delays will impair and interfere with communication in the classroom or in social settings of the playground, lunchroom, etc.
  • To continue to assist her where she lacks the ability to remain on task, being very easily distracted
  • To be vigilant because she is at risk for safety concerns
  • Not misreading behaviors as a behavior problem.
Pages long... the IEP will set the stage for success in school.

Pages long… the IEP will set the stage for success in school.

The IEP document should be addressing each aspect of their education, up to and including their mental health issues, if there are any, and our concerns.  I am adamant that if one’s emotional balance is chaotic then you just can’t do well when talking and expressing yourself AND in focusing on a task.  If this is true of those of us whose brains are not injured or in some way disabled, then how much more significant is it going to be for those with brains that did not grow and develop as they should have, as in my case with my daughter’s microcephaly.  I think we all know the answer to that question.

So for me ensuring my daughter’s mental and emotional welfare is of paramount importance. The rest will come if she is not upset, angry, confused, resistant, and “frustrated”, as she likes to say. “I’m frustrated with you” can mean so much. Patience and insight is needed to not misread what she is saying and doing.

Frustration...Anger...Being Overwhelmed...All of this can undermine success

Frustration…Anger…Being Overwhelmed…All of this can undermine success

Do you find that to be true with your child as well?  I would love for you to share your experience with me and how you are dealing, or maybe as yet not dealing as well as you’d like, with this daily interaction with your child.

LEAVE ME A COMMENT!

WE CAN JOIN HANDS and BENEFIT OTHERS WHEN DEALING WITH OUR CHILDREN’S RESISTANCE, EMOTIONAL STATE, ANGER, and FRUSTRATION.

We most certainly can and will learn from one another and while we share we will create a supportive community.

 

So okay now, back to my IEP experience…

I learned a few things. Such as:

  • how much Shiloh was loved by her teachers and the classroom aids, (or as I have come to understand the ‘para-professionals’ assisting in the classroom),
  • how to call for another IEP meeting (it’s not hard, just make a phone call…I recommend asking for it in writing),
  • who the school district’s Special Education Director was (wrote her a letter regarding my concerns),
  • how important it is to decipher the sections and components of the IEP,
  • how important it is to ensure that you have a document regarding who attended (I had to ask for and receive the page with the signatures of all attendees)
  • who can attend and should attend

I don’t recommend going to this meeting alone.

There is SO much that will be covered, you don’t want to miss critical components in the document that will contribute to classroom successes. When our transition meeting happened in December 2013, we still had another five months before summer break and two months after that, a total of 7 months, so while I felt that the transition meeting was premature, I was reminded that an IEP meeting can be called at any time and that the document changes as needs arise and/or problems arise that need to be addressed. This in fact is the law. (IDEA reference number: 34 CFR 300.324)

Therapists Who Are Intimately Engaged Make Great Advocates...So Do Loving Family Members

Therapists Who Are Intimately Engaged Make Great Advocates…So Do Loving Family Members

I was blessed to have two people attend with me who engaged in the meeting with their questions and concerns.  Her uncle made time out of his often hectic schedule at his university job; a loving family member with eyes on her needs.  And her speech, language pathologist (SLP) who truly understands Shiloh’s cognitive disability and the impact that has on her communication abilities and social interactions.  Her kind and supportive insights are a testament to her devotion to the children she serves with her finely tuned observations, education, and perseverance to ‘do the right thing’ for these kiddos.

PAUSE … For Just One More Thought

As I continue to read and study in this subject, I look for and capture noteworthy and well-spoken statements from those who are really in the trenches with parents like you and I.  This quoted statement is from a woman taking a leadership role in advocating for special needs children.  It is chock full of eye-opening insight and useful, applicable substance. I believe it is worth reading, then re-reading to get what she is saying. Remember this is a factual article on what the law requires, looking at the reality, while hoping for what can be equated to an “IEP Dream Team”.

The comments are from an article titled: The IEP Team: The Law, the Reality and the Dream and is published in the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) website.  This is an excerpt:

 “The IEP team would remember that learning disabilities are neurologically based life-long disabilities that can be successfully remediated with research-based instruction delivered with fidelity. IEP team members would feel free to express concerns about your child’s progress and come prepared to draft annual goals, supplementary aids, programs and services. Members would not talk to you outside of the IEP meeting and say, “Don’t tell anyone that I told you….”

If your child has ADHD (and many who have LD also have ADHD), the treating psychiatrist, neurologist or pediatrician would attend the IEP team meeting, instead of by signature or letterhead. Also attending would be any clinician (PhD psychologist, neuropsychologist, speech clinician, behavioral consultant, etc…) who has evaluated your child through an “Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE)” at public expense. Even the audiologist would be there to explain the manifestation of academic deficits in reading comprehension and written expression that are due to a “central auditory processing disorder” (CAPD).

If your child is reading two–three, or even one year below grade level the IEP team will be frantic and hold all-nighters until they reach agreement on a prescriptive reading program. Members will never have been suspected of child abuse due to educational neglect. The IEP team does not need portable defibrillators to resuscitate your child’s education. Your child’s educational airbag will never be released while sitting on the school bus that drives down the “yellow brick road” to FAPE.”

Marcie Lipsitt lives in Michigan with her husband, son and three dogs. She is the founder and co-chair of the Michigan Alliance for Special Education, a grassroots advocacy organization. Marcie is a member of NCLD’s Parent Leaders Team.

This excerpt was for me a dreamlike rendition of what could have been my daughter’s IEP meeting.  We had two.  I had asked for the second one which occurred just before school dismissed for the summer. The law’s expectations were NOT my reality.  I dare say that it is probably often true for many parents; everything I am reading seems to substantiate this.  

Even so, many good things did come out of our IEP meeting, one of the most substantial, since my little girl is a ‘risk for flight’ was to have a dedicated person be her aid from when she arrives at school until she is back on the bus to come home.  That has been an immense relief, even though some glitches have occured since school started.  We will get there…and so will you!

…. this IS a big reason for my blog.  

My learning curve can be used to your advantage so you won’t have to repeat my mistakes, or dig so hard to find the tools and keys you need to succeed for your little one. 

Happy,Peaceful Families... YES We Can Do This!

Happy,Peaceful Families…
YES We Can Do This!

 

I hope you have found this helpful.

QUESTIONS & CONCERNS?
Please comment here or drop an email to: linda@specialneedsadvocatepower.com

4 Responses to “The IEP and Me

  • What a great website. I have been through many IEP meetings for my son. We were fortunate enough to have a diagnosis before we bought a house. We checked all the local schools out and picked the district we wanted and bought a house in it. We always go in prepared and get what he needs. We feel very lucky. You know your child best so fight for what they need.

    • admin

      Oh yes, you got this right! Being prepared and knowing a bit about what the law requires of one;’s school district is VERY empowering. Its wonderful that you had a diagnosis and were able to purchase a home in a district that has a good reputation for supporting and caring for the educational needs of our special needs children. Great success for you and him. Thanks for dropping in. I know we share a similar passion for kiddos. I found your site to be easy to navigate and great personal sharing. Good videos and all!

  • Hi Linda, you are providing a wonderful source of help here, very detailed information which helps people to overcome fear and take action in the right way to give their children best support and comfort. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

    • Linda

      Hello Vera,

      Its very good of you to share that my post here can be supportive and bring comfort. Of course we have all heard the saying that “knowledge is powerful”, but knowledge that is not correctly applied or not set in good principles will undermine what we are trying to accomplish. Thanks you very much for caring enough to drop in and share your perspective and encouragement.

      Linda

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