How often do you look at your child’s IEP? I know I used to look at it right before an IEP meeting, then I would review it afterwards, sign and move on. I learned my lessons over the years.
For those who are just entering the IEP there are a few facts to remember.
- You are a member of the IEP team. Yes, you the non-educator, are essential participant. You know your child the best. Never forget that your voice is as important as those with a degree in Education. Remember the “me” in TEAM is you. You are your child’s most staunch advocate, the one who knows them best. You are as essential to the team as the child they are supposed to serve.
- Make sure the regular education teacher is involved. Your ultimate goal should be inclusion. The SPED teacher is invaluable but you want to make sure your child is accessing the traditional classroom as appropriate.
- The Vision Statement (if included, in Massachusetts it is) sucks. Especially if you are not prepared for to provide one. I remember being dumbfounded the first time I was asked. Don’t be blindsided. Create one, write it down and bring it with you to the meeting.
- Keep your expectation real. I love my child. I also know she isn’t going to Harvard on a National Honor’s Society scholarship. However, I do have expectations: that she be polite, that she be included, that she walk with her class, that she will find a job that she enjoys and will find rewarding.
- Take the old IEP and mark it up. Write your questions, comments, thoughts right on the old IEP. That way as you go through the motions at the meeting you will be prepared and notes to keep you focused as your world breaks around you.
The IEP process sucks, it really does. As Bridget ages I am finding that each year gets more difficult rather than easier. With each new year, I place the IEP front and center. I look at it and I hold the teachers (and myself) accountable. I compare the IEP with Bridget’s report card and progress notes. When I have a question, I reference the IEP before asking her teacher(s) why X or Y isn’t being done or if they can put it as a goal for next year.
Every year it gets more difficult to include Bridget in the General Ed classroom. It breaks me a little, when they say “oh she will be in specials”…it makes her into the class pet rather than the classmate. This year I am determined to do better, to find ways that she is included by not one Gen Ed Teacher but two (in 4th grade they begin switching classes). That her friends see her as a peer and not someone that just has lunch with them.
I look at the IEP as a mountain I have to climb every year. I look at the previous years IEP as training for the next hill I might have to climb. And I hope with every fiber of my being that each year Bridget’s team will be just as invested as the previous years team.
I’ve been lucky so far…fingers crossed our luck continues.
But I’ve got my notes ready just in case.