Blog #173~ IEP’s and Advocating for Your Child
It’s the merry month of May, or IEP season for parents who have a child with special needs. How do you advocate to get what your child is entitled to? IEP stands for Individualized Education Plan. “The IDEA law, ensures that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment and independent living.”
This purpose should drive the needs of your child, because it is neccessary for them to be “prepared for further education, employment, and independent living”. In the case of my son, Nick having Down syndrome and autism, he is unable to work and live independently. However through the years, his IEP goals, and supports have focused on his abilities to do everything possible to work towards this purpose and what is realistic for him upon completion of school at age 22.
So back to my first question….. How do you get what your child is entitled to?
There are three things that you can do as a parent to advocate for your child. These include providing parent input, examine & evaluating your child’s current IEP, and building goals based upon your child’s strengths.
Parent input should include what you want to see your child doing towards the purpose of “preparing them for further education, employment and independent living”.
*What academic goals can you put in place now that will drive them to be more independent in the future?
*How will your child interact with other peers and staff in social situations?
*How will your child do with social skills when out in public?
*What methods of communication will be used for your child to express themselves?
The second way you can best advocate for your child is to evaluate their current IEP. Take a hard look at each section including your child’s level of functioning, academic achievements, goals, special education & related services and accommodations. The focus should be on what your child CAN do with measurable goals. What supports and modifications are needed to assist your child? Does your child need a visual schedule? Is there any equipment or sensory related items that are needed to help with learning and navigating the building? Will their be a shared or 1:1 aide provided for your child if they need additional support?
If your child is not making any progress on a goal, then it needs to be looked at. For instance a goal of tying shoes may need more support and visuals from the occupational therapists. Then again, is the goal of tying shoes going to be important in another 5 years, or can you make another accommodation, move on and work on a different goal?
Once you have re-evaluated your child’s current IEP, schedule a meeting with the support teacher/ case manager to review your findings and decide on what goals would be best for your child moving forward. I would also suggest sending an email to the classroom teacher, therapists, and social worker to get their input on re-vamping the goals. This should all be done at least a month before the scheduled IEP meeting.
Be sure and request the proposed draft of the new IEP, including all reports from each team members, along with the goals proposed for your review BEFORE the actual meeting. This will insure that you are an informed member of the team, and be a vital part of the decision making process.
Goals should always build upon their strengths. My son was never interested in writing Any marker or pen given to him ended up with scribbles all over his clothing and skin. Nick was just not motivated by any goal to write. But what he was really good at matching. Many of his academic goals were driven by using supports that involved matching. So instead of writing Nick, the support teacher made a worksheet where he would cut out the letters N-I-C-K and glue them under a template. This allowed Nick to work on name recognition and cutting skills. This is a great example of modifying the curriculum to suit the level of student functioning.
Another example is money handling skills. Nick’s goal in elementary school was to work on the “dollar over” method. If an item was $1.49, he would count out two dollars (one dollar + one more dollar for change back).
Later in high school, the goal was changed to using an ATM card (which is what most people use in society today).
Taking on the role of advocate for your child insures that they your child will get what they are entitled under the IDEA law. Preparing yourself with vital parent input, examining & evaluating their current IEP, and working with the teacher to build goals that promote learning and independence will result in a solid education plan for your child, and their future success. In closing I will add this last point, that your child’s IEP should be constructed on your child’s unique needs, and NOT what the school district says they can offer and afford. That’s what is in my noggin this week.
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