Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Crazy Season

Yes, IEPs are upon us. Thank GOD ours is over, and went smooth as glass. We'll keep our eyes open and be our usual little IEP-Meeting-Calling owls all year, but for now, the Big One is done. For a lot of folks, it is about to begin.

And so I offer here my Helpful Guide to IEP Season. Please just add your own tips in the comments- what helped you?

1. Know your child. Most years, we have actually put together a Powerpoint presentation outlining who Joey is, our big picture long-term goals, strengths, weaknesses, and our suggestions for goals. We stud it with pictures and movie clips, so that Joey is not just a name on a piece of paper being shuffled around a table. He becomes a real person, and the focus remains on his needs and success. Yes, the staff will groan when you show up with your laptop and presentation. Show it. Do it first.

2. Read From Emotions to Advocacy. If you haven't done that, and you have an IEP coming, go do that now. Really. Step away from the computer and go read it.

3. Get your stuff together. Since you did your homework and read From Emotions to Advocacy, you know to go out an buy a big binder, and put everything in it. Get a few binders. You may need a new one each year. Lots of paper is pushed in special ed.

4. Know what you want. This is probably the hardest, because who comes into this an expert on their kid's disability? It is worth becoming one. Short on time? If you have an autistic child, I recommend looking into physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Know what these fields do, and how they might benefit your child. Next, look up teaching strategies, such as ABA, floortime, TEACCH, pivotal response training, etc. and consider how they might (and might not) help your child. Ask if the teachers are familiar with these strategies. Then, look up sensory integration and sensory perception, and ask about sensory integration, sensory diet, and sensory accommodations. Are the staff trained to deal with sensory issues? What accommodations can they recommend?

5. Take someone with you. I have found having private therapists at the meeting makes a big difference- you have folks there on your side, paid to look after the interests of your child, with professional expertise to make educated and appropriate suggestions. Other people like other parents, or even hire professional advocates. Stack the team in favor of your child. If you have any inklng of doubt that your school personnel are not going to be batting for your child, get the room full of people whose only concern is your child's success and wellbeing.

6. Bring a tape or digital recorder. Record the entire meeting. Most districts require written notice that you will be doing this. Dear Sir/Madam: I am writing to inform you that I will be audiorecording the meeting on (date) in order to have a full record of (child)'s educational planning process. Yours, (You).

7. Don't panic. You don't have to sign the IEP the day of the meeting- take it home, look it over, take it to your private team. No worries. Even if you sign it, you can call a new meeting and change it.

Thats my advice to our new and near-new parents. I'm not too far from newbie-dom myself, so as I said before, comments are open. Advice is greatly appreciated.


Stimey said...

Joeymom, you totally, totally rock my world. I (as I type) am on hold with a bookstore to track down this book. I am dedicating my weekend to IEP training. Thank you for this post.

Perksofbeingme said...

You are amazing. I work as an ABA therapist and I have some questions for you (if you don't mind). I was wondering if you have any suggestions or opinions on gluten free diets?


kristen spina said...

Wow. Great post. I need to read the book. In all this time, I've never read the book...

Joeymom said...

My opinion on gluten free diets is: if it works for your kid, great. It didn't work for us. Done correctly, it won't hurt your child not eat wheat, so I don't see any problem with consulting a nutritionist, particularly one who specializes in food allergies, and giving it a try. However, be prepared for a very hungry child, especially if you have a child with oral sensory issues. Also, you apparently have to try it for at least four weeks. The first few weeks, most families I know saw serious increases in behaviors and problems before seeing them fade. If its four weeks in and you still have increases, you need to re-strategize.