Monday, March 14, 2016

What makes an IEP easier for me


I'd rather get a cavity filled, take a freezing cold shower or walk barefoot on pine cones than go to an IEP meeting (Individualized Education Program, for the uninitiated—a written document that outlines education goals for a child with special needs that's revisited annually). Although I always hear lots of good about Max's progress, I find it anxiety-inducing to set the course of his schooling and therapies. But year after year, I make sure Max gets what he needs.

At Max's school, parents are handed a draft of the IEP at the meeting. After last year's, when I was shocked by the lack of articulation goals, I told our district case manager that I needed to have the IEP draft given to me ahead of time so I could absorb it, react to it and form my thoughts. Then I had Ben and sleep deprivation ate my brain. So I didn't realize until the morning of Max's IEP last week that: 1) It was the morning of his IEP and 2) I had no draft.

It turned out Max's school had only mailed our new case manager the draft IEP that morning, and she hadn't forwarded it to me. Argh.

I posted about this on Facebook. A couple of other parents said they also get drafts, or did pre-meetings, so there were no surprises on the day of the IEP meeting. A teacher chimed in: "I always send home a draft of the IEP, I want the parents to read over it so they have time to digest it. Also, I do not want to sit and read the whole thing at the meeting. The only time I sent a partial draft home was when it was a contentious meeting and the child's sped placement was up for discussion. I did not want to predetermine anything."

The majority of parents who weighed in, though, noted that they do not get drafts ahead of time; they work on the document at the meeting and make adjustments as a team. "It can be daunting for parents to be handed what seems like a done deal," said Cate M. Someone linked to a Wrightslaw article that mentioned the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) discourages draft IEPs because they can make parents think their input isn't valued. Still, said Marj H., "They are SUPPOSED to develop it collaboratively at that meeting, and yet they never allot enough time for that."

It seems like there are different regulations around the country about providing parents with a working draft ahead of time, and different practices within school districts. I think there are pros and cons to getting a draft. For me, and for our circumstances, it's a good thing.

For one, Max's team has always been open to discussion at the meeting, and so there is no set-in-stone mindset about the working draft. Also, although I'm in pretty close contact with his teacher and therapists so I'm usually in the loop on goals, omissions can crop up. This happened last year with speech articulation and this year, too, when I realized a physical therapy goal I felt was important to Max wasn't in there. 

No matter what, parents do not have to sign off on an IEP at the meeting. "I never signed until all of my questions were answered and my suggestions heard," says Teresa B. "I stopped more than one meeting until people learned I could not be manipulated or intimidated." In our area (it may vary in others), parents have 15 days after the meeting to raise concerns/sign the IEP; after that, it goes into effect.

Max's therapists and teacher all did an excellent job talking about his progress and the goals in the IEP, but I didn't sign it. I wanted to take time to read the 17-page document, which I couldn't do in the throes of the meeting.

Whether you already get a draft IEP, decide to ask for one or stick with putting the IEP together at a meeting, the bottom line is, you know what works best for you and your child—and you are his best advocate and champion.

Image: Flickr/Emily Bean
 

15 comments:

  1. And not only are you your child's greatest advocate and champion but they are watching and will be advocating for themselves someway in the future. Knowing my mother had to fight for me has empowered me to fight for myself

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  2. What I have noticed is this whole thing feels a little bit like a game -- the IEP is handed to you as if it's a "done deal," yet if I protest the staff at my son's school is willing to work with me, compromise, find a solution that works for everyone. I hate that it's not presented that way, though. I've never received a "draft." It's always been presented as the final document, even if i's not, and that feels like a power play.

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  3. I NEVER have signed the IEP at the meeting. They don't even ask me to anymore as they know I need time to take it home. I would rather do that then get a draft ahead of time because then I have everyone's input to consider as I read thru the goals.

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  4. We don't even get an IEP at the meeting. They mail it after and you have to write to request another meeting to discuss what's wrong with it. Very frustrating.

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  5. Set-in-stone plans ignore the fact that every plan is fallible.

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  6. They told me that I couldn't get a draft because the document was supposed to be written at the IEP meeing;a draft would suggest that it was not. One year I came in with a draft and they asked where I learned to write behavioral objectives (I was an ed major_

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  7. This is an entire world of special needs parenting that I have no clue about... and it just all seems so intimidating. I'm glad I have a solid 3 years before I have to worry about it!

    Paige
    http://thehappyflammily.com

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  8. We always develop the IEP at the meeting as a TEAM, I receive a copy of the meeting notes the day of the meeting. The IEP tends to come home with in a week, once I get it I am able to compare it to the notes and make sure all heals are included and all the correct services are listed.

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  9. Wow, where I work (in VA) we are required to send home a draft of present levels and goals 5 days before the meeting. I believe the law in VA is that parents get a draft 3 days before the meeting. We definitely still make changes during the meetings, but this lets parents have some idea what they are walking into.

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  10. We have an IEP meeting tomorrow to focus on some behavior challenges....unfortunately it starts to feel like an us versus them meeting...I just want everyone to focus on what is best for Henry...

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  11. Wow! I am an IEP Clerk at a school and we are required to send a draft home of almost all documents 5 business days prior to the scheduled meeting for parents to review. Everything at the meeting is discussed, but it makes it hard for a parent if they didn't see the document to digest everything being talked about and is always in the best interest of the student. Our meetings are never an Us vs Them so sad to hear that some schools work that way. As a parent with an child with an IEP and one with a 504 I am counting myself lucky that we do things differently in our county.

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  12. My youngest started preschool with Kathy this year. His original iep was a joke. I signed it before we even had a pt evaluation. They were offering the max sevices and I knew the school was going to do a much better job of evaluating and we get that initial 30 day review. At this point I'm okay with only getting the Ieps that morning because my kids are working on such broad goals that the therapists usually encompass everything, but I always remind myself that I don't have to sign it and can take it home and reread it first.

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  13. A few tips on the most proficient method to enhance the perusing abilities of your Deaf tyke. Make it fun and simple for them. Our child cherishes soccer and games, so we utilized this to his advantage. We got him his own memberships to junior and grown-up soccer magazines, Sports Illustrated, wrestling magazines and books on soccer for young people and adolescents.

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  14. I ask for reports in advance; doesn't always happen, but I ask. Goals are usually written during the meeting, though each specialist/teacher tends to come in with what they expect their goals to be. And I NEVER EVER EVER sign an IEP on that day. I need to read and reread it at home (I'm an editor, so I also look for typos and unclear language), and I want to be able to show it to other people if I'm not sure about one point or another. I always return it within a week or sooner, but never without the ability to look it over away from the team's eyes.

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Thanks for sharing!