When March came around I was anticipating receiving Emma’s draft Individualized Education Program (IEP). If a student is receiving any kind of special education services, they must have an IEP. And since Emma gets (Speech, Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy) at school, she has an IEP. Prior to the meeting with the IEP Team, the parents are given a draft IEP, the purpose is for us to read through it so we don’t come to the meeting blindly, but also for us to be able to come to the meeting with our concerns or suggestions.
We completed Emma’s first IEP in March 2015, so I knew renewal time was coming up. We received a progress report at the end of the year, and she seemed to be doing really well, but when I read her IEP I got very discouraged and had a ton of questions.
I talked everything over with Darrick and he read through the IEP as well, and we had a long conversation about Emma and her education. We knew many of our questions were questions that we would have to remember to ask during the meeting. I initially planned to attend the meeting by myself because I wasn’t sure if Darrick could make it, but he ended up being able to make it and I was very thankful! An extra set of ears it always helpful!
When you initially read an IEP for your child, it can be an emotional process because no one wants anything to be wrong with their child. They don’t want their child to have delays or need extra services to help them learn…believe me there have been times I beat myself up about this….
I created a list of how to approach IEP time…
Write Your Questions Down As You Review The IEP…just like going to the doctors’ office and having your doctor put the meaning of whatever is going on in “everyday terms” this is what you have to do with an IEP as well. Sometimes there is jargon that has to be put in the IEP for the State reporting purposes, if there is something you don’t understand; ask questions, don’t be afraid to make notes all around your draft IEP so you know what you want to ask. After reading the IEP the first time through, I just couldn’t believe that Emma hadn’t progressed but when you get to the meeting and explained everything you understand why things are written a certain way…and EVERYTHING is thoroughly explained! And if it’s not THOROUGHLY explained then you should have more questions for the district or someone above the team!
It’s Ok, to be Emotional…If you know me, you know I operate on emotions and its taken to an all-time HIGH when it comes to the kids. I just want them to have everything they need…physically, emotionally and spiritually! And there is nothing wrong with that, its okay to be passionate about what is going on with your child, actually I believe its a good thing. During our meeting with Emma, I was emotional but I explained while I am extremely proud of my little one, reading an IEP is hard! And always feeling like you are “behind the eight-ball” when it comes to making sure you are doing everything at home as well as in school to get her to the level of her peers. But with that emotion, I was reassured plenty of times that they are there to help work with us to get Emma where she needs to be!
Don’t Be Afraid to Explain to the IEP Team what you Need from Them…in my notes to myself one of the things that I wanted from our IEP team was better updates. I see Emma’s primary teacher, teaching assistant and speech therapist on a regular so if I have a question, concern or just want to check up on her I can get that daily if I need to. However, the other therapist I would never see, so when I received her progress report I asked for updates so I know what needs to be worked on at home, as well as with her outside therapists!
Its NOT you Against Them…I know sometimes it may feel like that but you are here to make sure everyone is working together for the betterment of your child. If you go in with an attitude that you are against everything they’re saying about your child…you will get no where!!! Emma has a really good team, and they made sure Darrick and I were on the same page as them and vice versa. If we had any questions they were extremely helpful in answering or if there was anything we wanted to change, they were there for suggestions as well!
BE AN ADVOCATE FOR YOUR CHILD…ever since Emma was born this is one thing that I have stressed on my blog! I had to learn this quickly, and its more so present now than when she was first born. As you listen to the IEP team talk about your child, it can be hard, you may be emotional but don’t let that stand in your way of being able to say what you need to about your child. If you know your child can do something and they are saying they can’t…be stern with them.
Let me give you an example…as you know Emma’s speech isn’t the best, but I know Emma can do it (sometimes you have to insert tough love). Her outside therapist created these pictures to help Emma practice everyday language (things we use on a regular basis), while I am extremely grateful for the pictures and we practice the pictures I didn’t want Emma to solely rely on the pictures to communicate. Instead of using them like the speech therapist wanted us to use them, we practice with them, but things that we use on a daily basis; I help her in saying them as we use them. Her school therapist was on board with this method and totally understood why I did this…its not to say I know more than either of the therapist (because I LOVE both her school speech therapist and outside speech therapist) but I KNOW was Emma is capable of also!!!
Pray or Meditate Prior to Going In…So you all know I pray, but I know everyone isn’t into prayer. But it helps me tremendously in sorting out my feelings of anxiety! I pray for everything. Darrick and I always pray in the morning but the morning on the IEP we said a special prayer of preparation…to prepare us for whatever we are going to hear, and prepare us for everything that comes our way in dealing with our special needs child. Going into these meetings you never know what you are going encounter, believe me I’ve been in the Craniofacial Clinic (clinic for kids born with craniofacial deformities) thinking I was going to get a good report and everything came out negative…so we are proactive in getting ourselves prepared for whatever is coming our way!