[Many good things have been happening at Chez Flashlight in the last 24 hours. Mary decided to make S’mores last night, and we have a guest poster! The expert commenter known as Gigi and her daughter Stephanie are about to wow you with some brilliant, valuable advice about Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).
If you have questions for them or us, please put them in the comments section of this post.
Gigi is a retired special needs teacher and guidance counselor of 31 years. Stephanie is a speech language pathologist (SLP). So you know you’re getting top-notch information here. We’re honored to have you two post this. Thank you!! – Tim]
If someone has not yet given you a copy of your rights through IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), ask for a copy, which they are required to give you. This is your bible and you should never attend an IEP meeting without it. Here is a link to download the most recent (2007) pdf format Resource Guide for Parents. Other IDEA highlights are noted throughout.
Although IDEA is federal, every state is required to have a Protection and Advocacy system. Check for yours at the national website at www.napas.org.
You have a right to see all the assessment results and meet with the assessor(s) BEFORE the first IEP meeting so you have time to absorb it and get questions ready.
Educators are famous for turning everything into acronyms (see IDEA above and many others below) and use them as if everyone knows what they all mean. If you don’t, ASK!! Every 5-8 years or so, all the “label names” are changed to more politically correct ones, so just as soon as you learn them, they’ll all change. Personally, I think they do this just to screw with us.
Follow your gut. If something sounds fishy or not quite right, it probably isn’t. Ask questions, make requests in writing to keep the IEP team accountable, and don’t take no for an answer the first time. You might even tape record the meeting to keep everyone on their toes. Some IEP teams will be pretty ticked off by this and there may be much eye-rolling. Smile and insist. Remember – they may be the education experts, but YOU are an expert on your kid!
If you request a particular service and are told it is not possible or that your child does not qualify for it, stand firm. Request the assessment for that supports the need for the service you request. If the results don’t jive with what you think your kid needs, you have the right to request an IEE (Independent Education Evaluation) provided at PUBLIC EXPENSE. Again, make that request in writing.
The primary goal of the IEP meeting is to place your kid in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). This is especially important if full or partial inclusion in a regular classroom is likely and/or desired. Optimally, full inclusion with modifications should be the initial goal, working back to more restrictive options as needed. MEASURABLE goals and objectives should be written BEFORE placement is determined. In fact, it should shape how placement is determined. Modifications can range from providing an aide to providing visual cues, speech therapy, etc.
As I read through this list, it struck me that most of these tips either hint or scream at an adversarial relationship with the school district. Let me hasten to point out that most school districts really do the right thing, really have your kid’s best interest at heart and are really there to help you. They have been through this process many, many times before, to the point where it sometimes seems rote or rubber stamped. You may only need to gently remind them that although this is their 1,648th IEP, it’s your first. Knowing your rights is your responsibility to your kid, nonetheless.
(This is Stephanie talking now-Gigi’s daughter, the SLP).
The only things I have to add is regarding the specific goals/objectives, etc. More than likely they will be written before the meeting. If you don’t agree, want to add more, etc, it may seem time consuming and you may need to meet again, but it is possible.
Also, you mentioned that you were concerned about how to make the skills that J-man is showing (i.e. naming letters, colors, etc) into functional goals for the IEP and how to generalize them to naming other items. I may be totally off on this, but I do believe this is fairly common with kids with autism. I think it has to do with the fact that letters, colors, numbers are considered “rote” naming or rote memory and that naming other objects is more of “labeling”. I can’t remember the reason behind it, but the teachers will probably be familiar with this type of learning and memory and will help to incorporate that into his goals. AND those skills are very functional for a pre-school classroom, so it should all go hand in hand.
About AAC devices (augmentative and assistive communication), I know that the IEP process is different in each state, however I do believe that every IEP has a section that asks about assistive communication evals, or have all appropriate evals be completed (may not specifically say AAC). You can have that sections checked and then they are required to do an AAC eval (separate from the typical speech eval, etc.
As far as the actual eval and devices, I would recommend that several devices be tried out with J-man before anything is chosen. There is a TON of different types, software, vocabulary that should be looked at to figure out which one would best suit him. I know that some companies will even rent them out to see if they work for a specific child. I know that this is a long process and you may get frustrated, but keep with it if it’s what you feel is best for him. PLEASE feel free to ask me any other questions!!