I tend to go a bit bananas in the spring. Not because I’m coming off of a long winter in Upstate New York (especially this winter!), but because I realize I have to deal with the three letters that I dread the most-IEP.
When I was just teaching, IEP (Individualized Education Plan) time meant that I was 2-3 days out of the classroom writing these and meeting with parents and administrators to make sure each child received their correct placement, goals and services to make sure they were successful the following year and we were all doing the right thing for them.
Now, as a parent, this time becomes harder. There’s so much to make sure of. With an IEP, it secures what services a child needs for the following year and what their academic and other service related goals will be.
I can’t just play the teacher role and be diplomatic about everything. It wouldn’t get my son where he needs to be. Reading and responding to an IEP requires the following things:
1. Knowledge of the child’s abilities and needs. This needs to be the most honest conversation you have with yourself as a parent. This is not the time to inflate the child’s abilities, or, in some cases, their needs.
The abilities and needs question is the hardest one for me. I have the blessing to have a child who is inconsistent across environments. He knows the items in question, but pulling it out at the right time? That’s a big trick. You know the information will come out, it’s a matter of when it comes out! So, as I sit and go over the IEP, I look at the results and need to really take stock of what he does know, what the testing shows and where is the middle ground.
This is the time where you need to ask questions. If the school’s list of abilities and needs don’t match what you know in your heart are your child’s true needs and abilities, question the school. It never hurts to do that. They may have it wrong. They may see things that you aren’t seeing and vice versa. Do not be afraid to question.
2. Where the child needs to be academically to move on to the next-next grade.
If you have a first grader, you’re not looking at second grade, you’re looking down the pike to third grade. Since the IEP is a doccument for a full year, you need to look that full year down the road. What does my child need to know to go into the grade following? What things can we write goals for to not only bridge the gap between potential and achievement, but what can we do to make sure that we get that 2nd (or 3rd or whatever) grade material in.
This is where being a teacher comes in handy for me. I have a base knowledge of what each grade level covers. I know what I’m looking at. For those who don’t spend their working hours in a school with easy access to the teachers, it’s a great idea to take a trip to the bookstore to the education shelves and peek at the “summer bridge for….graders” books. Those books cover what every student at that grade level should know by the end of their time in that grade. It’s a great foundation that I can’t recommend enough.
I spend a lot of time praying that the teachers at Isaac’s school do the right thing. I pray that they’ve really understood where he is at this point in the year and what he’s truly capable of. I pray that they will give him goals that will challenge him and make sure that he moves on to his fullest potential. I pray that they ask me to sign off on the proper setting.
I also pray that each year’s IEP goes smoother than the last.
And that’s about all you can do.