It’s that time of year again…IEP time. Lord knows we had NO CLUE what this term meant eleven years ago. We learned…as IFSPs morphed into IEPs when Caleb turned three. Word on the street wasn’t good, and we dreaded that first go-round. So many parents of kids with special needs hear “IEP” and shudder. For most of them, it’s not a pleasant experience. Sitting in a room filled with professionals telling you how delayed your child is doesn’t make for a great day, or week.
Thankfully, we’ve managed to have positive IEP experiences. Whether it’s because he had great teachers and therapists to help advocate for us or because we were prepared (with drafts), I can’t think of one bad IEP day. We’re lucky, I know. I hear from so many parents that steel themselves for this day. I’ve seen the glasses – coffee mug for “IEP Preparation” and wine glass for “IEP Recovery”. Parents who bring treats to their student’s IEPs in hopes that it might go smoother. Although I’m sure the team appreciates getting fed, having a productive session has more to do with your preparation than it does having donuts on hand. I posted a couple of blogs last year with some helpful tips. IEP Prep part 1 and IEP Prep part 2
Having a Vision and Mission statement can help. Having an Advocate can help. Getting up to speed on Wrightslaw can help. All these things are great IEP tools in your kit, but we’ve found that nothing works better than to keep communication going throughout the year with your child’s teachers and therapists. SO IMPORTANT.
We try to meet with Caleb’s teachers right after school begins, just to make sure everyone is on the same page. A lot can happen during the summer! Time for growth and working on independence skills. Traveling and camps can be opportunities for social and communication growth. August is a good time to look over the IEP goals that were set in the spring to make everyone is on the same page and see if anything needs “tweaking”.
Caleb’s school does a good job with daily communication reports. He gets grades for each class and comments with anything that might need explanation. On the flip side of that form is a graph with three of his IEP goals that he/they are focusing on in particular, with grades on those as well. We use an app (Remind) for texting back and forth with any questions.
Every nine weeks with his progress report, we set a meeting up to review the report, discuss anything new (or old), and see how we can keep a good school/home flow going. That consistency is important! Things we might talk about include behavior (yes!), communication, academics, social skills – just about anything. We have a tutor during the week too, so looping her in on all this communication is important too. She’s updated on any changes to his IEP, new strategies, and such. #ittakesavillage
Flash forward to the spring, and yet another IEP rolls around. BUT! We certainly know that at any time during the year, we can modify/amend his IEP if goals are consistently being met, or for another reason. His draft IEP comes about a week ahead of time – enough time for David and me to take a look and talk about goals for him that we’d like to see. It’s also a good time for the two of us to talk about any other goals we might have outside of school– socially, chores, life skills, etc.
Caleb is eleven now and entering Intermediate in the fall (middle school). Sooner than later, our hope is that he will be a participating member of the IEP team, sharing his own input and some goals. This is called “Self-Determination”, and can help him to work towards greater independence, improve his critical thinking skills and help him to look ahead too. We are new to this part of the journey, but thankful for mentors and advocates in our lives who can share their knowledge with us for these next steps.
Remember that IEPs are a big piece of the puzzle, but so many other factors can come into play as well. Make sure you are using all your assets to make a solid plan for your student.