The Individualized Education Plan (IEP)—the meeting every parent looks forward to attending. Um, not exactly. I dread the IEP meeting; I am never sure what I should be asking versus what I need to be fighting for Bridget to receive. The IEP process is so involved. From the beginning of the process I get tripped up. It starts with what seems to be an innocent question: my input for our vision statement. Do you realize how difficult it is to come up with a vision statement for your child’s education? Try the exercise. Think to yourself: the vision statement for my child’s education experience it would include…
I’m hearing crickets.
It is impossible to come up with a simple, brief statement of how you envision your school system will work with you and your child to promote their best potential. For example, our school mission statement:
The mission of XXX Public Schools is to provide each and every child with the core values, knowledge and skills needed to achieve full potential in his or her personal and work life and to contribute actively in our diverse and changing democratic society. We all share responsibility to fulfill this mission.
That is pretty far-reaching and what I want for Bridget, to achieve her full potential. The mission of the IEP is of course based on that thought process. Every year I do not pre-think this section of the IEP. Every year I come up with a lame vision in considering the next 1 to 5 year period: The Team would like Bridget to continue to strengthen all areas of development, particularly language and usage, and to maintain skill acquisition.
In brief it is in line of the mission of our school system; for Bridget to continue to strengthen and to maintain skills. Yet when devising her vision statement, I am not speaking to the heart of the school system: achieve full potential and contribute actively in …society. I don’t blame the school system. I am an active part of the discussion and do not pay enough attention to how the IEP process begins—with a vision. I am sure I am not alone in being more worried about the meat of the IEP (accommodations) then I am about having a feel-good statement to begin the document.
As Bridget has aged through the preschool program into the for-real educational system, I have begun to realize I have done her a disservice. The whole purpose of the vision statement is to insure that every accommodation, every goal is devised in a manner to be in line with our vision for Bridget. Instead of devising a vision statement for Bridget to grow, I have limited her expectations. I have stated I want her to maintain her skills.
Not grow, not break barriers, and not achieve her full potential. Instead my vision for my child was to “maintain” her skills. I do have continued to strengthen in areas of development (thanks to her angel, Patty). My child deserves more from me. Bridget needs me to be her advocate, yes. More than that, Bridget needs me to believe in her full potential and, more importantly, have that be how her IEP process begins.
This year, when I walk into that IEP meeting I know exactly what I want our team’s vision statement to say when considering the next 1 to 5 year period of her school life:
The vision of Bridget’s team is for her to obtain the skills needed to be an active participant in the general education classroom. We will work together to provide tools and teachings that build on Bridget’s current skill set to for her to be a contributing classmate, one that adds diversity to her peers’ experiences. Bridget will be given the resources needed to acquire new educational goals and continued growth on skills she has mastered. The ultimate vision of this IEP is for Bridget to become more integrated with her grade-level peers and spend less time in a contained classroom environment.
My vision for Bridget’s future has no boundaries. I’m going to live up to her expectations of me, as her mom: one who sets the bar high; for her entire team.