NOTE: Although now a veteran of my share of IEP’s and IEP meetings, I cannot claim to be an expert on them. Since it’s such a subject of concern and apprehension for most of us, however, here are some of my thoughts and experiences. I hope it helps!
For those of you new to the public school system, an IEP (Individualized Education Plan or Program) is a document drawn up by the school. It includes information from teachers, speech therapists, guidance counselors, autism coordinators, and the like (from the school side). It may also contain information about anything from standardized test scores to doctor recommendations to parental requests.
It’s a sort of catch-all document. Obviously.
Once the diagnosis/diagnoses and test scores are listed, problems/challenge areas are identified and clear, quantifiable goals are set. Accommodations are then agreed to by parents and the school. Herein lies the importance of the document.
And yes, “clear, quantifiable goals” seems problematic, doesn’t it? Especially for kids like ours. But if these goals are not stated, then it’s all haziness and pie in the sky ideas.
Here are some examples:
- (child’s name) will turn in homework assignments on time 80% of the time or better for 4 out of 4 grading periods
- (child’s name) will demonstrate organizational skills by labeling papers/assignments independently with name, date, and subject for 9 out of 10 observations
- (child’s name) will demonstrate modification of impulsiveness to interrupt, answer for others and participate in turn taking 80% of the time
By setting these goals, the school is agreeing to help the child reach them. I know, at first glance it appears to be a laundry list of demands upon our children; however, it’s really a sort of contract between parents and school.
And yes, quarterly reports regarding goals are sent home to parents. I’ve found they usually arrive around report card time.
Since these goals are an acknowledgment by the school that there are challenge areas for our children, accommodations can be built around them. This is where we can help our kids deal with everyday problems, such as those late turn-ins.
- Flexible Scheduling – may have extra time to complete tests/quizzes if needed
- Flexible Setting – may take tests/quizzes in a quiet, small group setting if needed.
- Increased time to turn in assignments as needed
and so on.
But to make all of these things happen, and in fact to bring the IEP into existence, a meeting must be put together that includes parent/s and school officials.
This is a source of great anxiety for most of us. Myself included. After all, the Meeting can be a friendly gathering of like minds, or a clash of misunderstandings. My single best piece of advice would be to bring a guest (you are entitled to bring one if you like, or even have one available to answer the phone), as stated in IEP Meetings.
If your IEP contains a particularly well-worded accommodation or goal, please share it with us. Our kids have a lot of the same issues in common, and your experience may help someone else out there.