It’s that time of year again, the birds are singing, the sun is out, and IEP meetings are being set up! Whether you are new to the whole concept of an Individualized Education Plan or you’ve been a part of them for years, I think it is important to know what they are all about and what your rights are as a parent.
All children with special needs who require adaptations to their curriculum and require more than 25 hours of support from a person other than the classroom teacher during a school year will have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
The IEP is a legal document and may include: goals and outcomes that are different from the learning outcomes of the child’s grade, services the child will use, all adaptations made to the curriculum, strategies that will be used, and assessment tools.
I have never questioned what my children’s school is doing to help them succeed; we are fortunate to be at a school that is very supportive! I have however heard too many parents complain that their children are not receiving enough support. Well, guess what? You can and should be a part of the goal setting for your child at school and the IEP is how this happens.
A team at your child’s school puts IEP’s together. This team can include the principal, Resource Teacher, classroom teacher, specialists who work with your child, you as a parent and even your child when appropriate. There is a lot of planning that goes into an IEP to ensure that it includes goals that are attainable for your child. For kids with ASD these goals often include academic, social/emotional and behavioral goals. Once the goals are set, strategies are decided upon in order to reach these goals. If your child requires environmental supports for academic success such as extra time on tests or even a scribe if they have difficulties with written output then this should be included in the strategies. Other strategies that may be used are: sensory breaks to keep the child in a good regulatory state, visual schedules, Time Timers, Hokki Stools (or other special seating), prompting, teaching of social skills, and the list goes on! If you have any reports from specialists that work with your child, these can be helpful for the school to use to help determine what kinds of supports your child needs.
One of my son’s CEA’s told me “my goal is to work myself out of my job.” I like her perspective; she is there to support my son in becoming as independent as he can so that eventually his support can be tapered off.
I really look forward to my kid’s IEP meetings every year. It gives me a chance to see how much they’ve grown in their skills and independence, and it is a good chance to touch base when things aren’t working well anymore. The team that plans the IEP and implements it really is there for your child to support them in any way that they can, so I encourage you to be an active part of the process as we enter into IEP season!