Like many people that read this blog or just visit by accident I struggle with the IEP process. I have been in the field of special education for 18 years and still I struggle with creating an appropriate document to help my nieces with their education. No matter how much your opinion is respected by the members of a community when you step into the lions den of the DISTRICT you lose all creditability. The district automatically has the attitude that it is you against them and they are the experts. The one district which I reside in actually wrote my brother and me a letter saying they are the experts on what is best of my niece. I am sure you all know how the response letter went. One day the district will learn that it is not the parents vs the district. It takes two to dance the tango and everyone has to pull their weight.
Even the best advocate for others often needs help advocating for their own child because of the emotions involved. Once you get past the emotions you can step up to the plate and battle for what is needed without being personal. I am lucky because I have wonderful friends that support me and keep me in check with taking things personally. I also am lucky because I have friends that know the right words to use when the district tries to pull the we know best routine.
The reason for this post is that I came across a wonderful website that actually helps you prepare for the IEP meeting. The tool walks you through the questions that you should answer prior to the meeting and outlines the areas that you need to work on. As an educator I have written IEP’s, I have attended many IEP meetings but as a person trying to help my siblings through the maze there are many things that I took for granted. This check list helped me explain to my siblings in plain English without the SPED jargon.
For the parents that are preparing for an IEP doesn’t miss the Child Portrait piece. For the younger children the parents write the portrait but as the child gets older and can take on the task, I typically allow the child to write their own. It is important that the child can pick out their strengths and weakness’ and explain how it impacts their learning. When I write it for the younger children, I will ask them questions about their likes and dislikes in school or what do they find easy and hard to do in school. I always find it important to make sure we include the child goal for life. Yes goals change as they grow but it is a great way to document that they have hopes and dreams.