What do I Need to Know to get an IEP? Part 3: Elements of an IEP

So, your child is going to get an IEP.  You are preparing for an IEP meeting: you need to know what will be discussed!  In Missouri, these are the components of an IEP:  (They are similar in most states, because the IEP is written according to state interpretation of federal guidelines.)

  • Present level of academic achievement and functional performance
    • The “present levels” tells everyone reading the IEP what your child’s strengths and weaknesses are, and what areas need improvement.  It is a picture of your child right now.  Teachers reading the IEP should get a good picture of your child from this.  The child will be compared at next year’s IEP to this picture of him at this IEP, and goals should be based on this picture.
    • There is a place for parental input in here.  Think about your child’s strengths and weaknesses and be ready to present them at the IEP meeting.  It may help to put them in writing: you won’t forget anything when you read it at the meeting, and the teacher preparing the written IEP can put what you write verbatim into the IEP.
  • Federal and State Requirements
    • This is basically a checklist of why a child needs an IEP and what will be in the IEP.
  • IEP Goals
    • This is what the teachers will be working on in your child’s IEP.
    • They should be specific, measurable, reasonable, achievable, and timely (SMART) goals.
  • Services
    • This is where the IEP states how much time your child will spend in special education, and who will be teaching (for example, general special education teacher or speech therapist, reading specialist, etc.)
    • Listen closely during this part of the meeting and take detailed notes, even if you don’t have anything to input.
  • Transportation as a Related Service
    • In this section, the IEP team discusses whether your child needs special transportation (for example, special bus service) to be able to attend school.
  • Regular Education Participation
    • This section discusses how much the child will participate in the regular education program.
    • The child should be in the “least restrictive environment” — should be with his non-IEP peers as much as possible.
    • Even if a child is in a special education setting most of the time, they can still be in regular education for times such as recess, lunch, gym, music class.
  • Placement Considerations and Decision
    • This section is a summary of what was discussed before, to state how much a child will be in the regular education classroom.  It includes a continuum of placements.  The IEP team must consider less restrictive environments before deciding to put a child in a special education environment.
  • Transition
    • If a child is 16 or older, this section is required. It may be included for younger children as well. This section discusses post-graduation plans and how the school will help him get there.

An IEP is a complex document, and a meeting has to address all of these elements!  As a parent, you are a member of your child’s IEP team.  I hope this will help you participate in the meeting!

 

Hi Ho, to the ER we go

Cassatt made his second trip to the ER yesterday.

We have VBS going on this week, and he was so tired afterwards (my interpretation) that he fell down the steps on the way to the car.  He hit his head.  There was a nurse there who tended to his scrapes and looked at the bump on his head. She told me if he threw up or acted extremely tired, to take him to the ER.

Well, he was so worn out that he fell asleep in his chair after lunch.  He’s done that at dinner before, but never in the middle of the day. He slept. Hard.

While I put him in bed.

While I worried and decided to take him to the ER, just to be safe.

While I put him in the car.

While I put him in the stroller and walked him into the hospital.

And then he woke up when the nurse took his temperature.  After a period of grogginess, he was flirting with the nurses and back to his normal self.

Sigh.  Well, that was unnecessary.

Letter for the New School Year

It’s the end of July.  School supplies are on sale (as I do a happy dance for cheap notebooks and crayons), information packets are being sent out, and you are planning last-gasp summer activities before the summer ends.

School for my kids begins in only three weeks.  Yes, in the middle of August, they go back to their books.

So how am I preparing for the new year?

1. I am looking through my child’s IEP binder. (I’ll admit, papers from last year are still in my to-file pile on my desk. Those need to be filed before the school year starts, too.)  I want to make sure I am familiar with his IEP enough that I can confirm it is being followed.

2. I am writing a letter to the child’s teacher.  Picasso starts Kindergarten at a new school this year.  He will not have the advantage of teachers or school staff who already know him well.  But even if he did, I would still want to give his teacher advance knowledge of who he is.  His teacher has to get to know twenty-two kids.  She may not be inclined to look at his behaviors as impulsive, and I don’t want her to have the impression that he is willfully misbehaving when he is not.  He has particular supports he needs, and I want to make sure she is aware of these, even though they are in the IEP already.

What are the key things to put in a letter?

  • Introduce yourself as a parent.  Let the teacher know whether you work outside the home, whether you are available to volunteer.  Make sure she knows your contact information, as well.
  • Introduce your child’s strengths.
  • Present your concerns about your child to the teacher.
  • Let your teacher know how you think these concerns might impact the classroom environment.
  • Finally, end the letter on a positive note, wishing the teacher good things for the year ahead, and reinforcing that you are available to talk about any concerns.

Hopefully this will get the school year off to a good start!

Bringing a Note-Taker to an IEP Meeting

Did you know that you can invite anyone you want to an IEP meeting?

This means that you can have with you:

  • an advocate
  • your child’s outside therapist
  • your child’s piano teacher/sports coach
  • your pastor
  • your own therapist

… well, you get the idea.  You can and should invite anyone who will provide valuable input about your child to the IEP meeting.  The only restriction is that if you take an attorney with you, the school can have its own attorney present too.  (This has more to do with legal ethics than the IEP law.  Your attorney, if you decide you need one, should make sure the school knows they are going to any meetings.)

It is a good idea for parents to bring someone neutral to an IEP meeting as well.  This serves two functions: It gives the parent some moral support (the sheer number of school personnel at the IEP meeting can be intimidating), and they can serve as a note-taker for the meeting.

Notes will serve to remind you what was said.  (Have you ever thought, “I will remember that later,” only to realize later that you have no idea what you were supposed to remember?)  When you review your copy of the IEP, you can compare it with your notes to make sure what was said at the meeting is actually in the IEP.

Good notes taken by a neutral party can also help later if there is a dispute about the IEP.  If, heaven forbid, you have to resolve a dispute through Due Process or a court case, the note-taker can be a witness to what was said at the meeting.  Their notes can be used as evidence.

This may seem unnecessary, especially if you currently have a good relationship with the school.  However, relationships can sour.  A dispute can arise by a single teacher not following the IEP (yes, this happens).  Schools have competing interests: yes, they serve your child, but they have to balance that with the needs of the other children in the school, with limited resources to do it.

Do you have experience bringing a note-taker to a meeting?

What do I Need to Know to Get an IEP? Part 2: Data Review

IEP School

Last week, I wrote about getting an evaluation for your child. Today I will write about what happens when the evaluation comes back.

More

Writing and Children

I have been taking some creative writing classes, and have fallen in love with my new hobby.  I’ve gotten some books from the library to help me learn to write better.

Your Child’s Writing Life

One book, in particular, Picasso has taken a great interest in.  It is Your Child’s Writing Life and it shows you how to teach your children to be life-long writers.

I picked this one up at first because I thought it would give me (as a beginning writer) some ideas on how to write well.  Instead, it has encouraged me to teach Picasso to write.  We have started some new routines to encourage this.

First, we created a word jar.  When we find words we love (or just words he wants to put in there), we write them down and put them in the word jar.  Every so often–hopefully weekly, but so far it has been daily–we pull out the words and read them.

We have also started daily writing practice.  Every day we set the timer for five minutes and sit down and write.  I try to write a quick story in that time so I can read it to them at the end of that time.  Picasso either draws a picture or copies some words from the jar during that time.

I hope I can continue to encourage Picasso (and hopefully Cassatt as well) to love writing with these practices!

Milk Painting

Have you heard of Milk Painting?  It is a fun thing to do with little kids. Picasso and Cassatt love seeing the colors swirl in their milk paintings, and I love that it is an easy craft that doesn’t use any special materials and doesn’t add to the “junk” in the house.

Picasso enjoys mixing the colors.

Picasso enjoys mixing the colors.

Milk Painting 1

Cassatt enjoys the swirls

It is an easy project to do.  I use a rimmed plate and pour a little milk into it (not too much so it doesn’t overflow).  I then add a few drops of food coloring.  The poke at it with a toothpick dipped in dishwashing soap.  The colors explode!

Milk painting helps develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.  It teaches them about colors.

It is a fairly clean craft as well, as long as the milk doesn’t get spilled.  I had to keep a close watch on them to make sure Cassatt didn’t get into the food coloring.  It was a good project, though, and we all had fun milk painting!

What do I need to know to get an IEP? Part 1: Evaluations

IEP SchoolI’ve heard about an IEP and been told my child could benefit from one. But what is an IEP?  How do I get one for my child?

Your child is struggling in school, and as much as you try to help him, he keeps falling further behind.  Maybe the problem is grades.  Or maybe his grades are fine but his behavior is a problem.  Perhaps he is struggling socially.  At any rate, you sense that your child needs more help than he is getting at school. More

What’s on my menu?

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