Monday, October 17, 2005

Be Prepared! IEP

I just heard from a public school teacher about his new student with "autism." It appears the teacher's district school was not the mother's first choice, but was denied attending the "first choice" because these same services could be offered through the district based on the IEP they had written.

The public school teacher was told by the mother that the school would not pay for transportation to her first choice. The public school teacher has not even seen the IEP or given any information about his new student from the school yet, but he was told that this student would be starting next week. His conversation so far has been directly with the mother.

The teacher's question to me was how could his district school tell this mother that the services were equal to what this other school could provide, when it was not. The teacher is a strong proponent of mainstreaming and inclusion, but thinks his district school is wrong about denying this woman her first choice.

"There is no way I can provide the experience this boy deserves with the limited space and large class. Even the mother knows he is probably better off in this other school and doesn't understand why the district will not let her son attend a school where can succeed and not be the focus of behavior issues."

It all starts with writing the IEP and if parents rely on the school to write it for them, they will short-change their child's education needs. The mother should have had a meeting previously with her first choice school and other advocates for children with autism. Together, they could have helped this woman develop a vision and plan for what was best for her son in the form of an education.

The next step, would be to bring this vision, plan and advocate group to the district school to help educate the school about what was best for the child. IEP meetings are suppose to be a collaboration to identify the child' needs, strengths, ability, and skills and then create an education plan where the child can grow in ability, skill, and strength. If at this point, the district school still believes they can offer the same services at the district school, then they need to explain step by step how they will support the initial vision and plan.

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