Thursday, May 21, 2009

Homework Assignment: IEP (Individual Education Plans) in Ohio

"We have to be careful we're not creating special education systems or IEPs by proxy. What I mean is that we're not creating a system of people who are standing in for the professionals."

How different will IEP's look in Ohio now that the changes from the 2006 legislative amendments are trickling down? Click on the title above and you'll be transported into another universe. I promise you. (Like me, you'll never come back!)

Remember parents, an IEP is not just a bunch of papers we sign off every few years to gauge our child's progress and special education for our child is not babysitting time. IEPs are the master plan outlining what your child is working toward according to their own ability. IEPs are the road map for your child's future.

It's unfortunate we have created so much paperwork in developing IEPs because it can take away from time that would be spent with your child. So make sure that somewhere in the design of the IEP is how a student's time will be accounted for while they are at school. More specifically, who will be implementing the IEP with your child on a daily basis. The IEP should identify the players working directly with your child the majority of the time and what they'll be doing on a daily basis.

We also have to be careful we're not creating a special education system or IEPs by proxy. What I mean is that we're not creating a system of people who are standing in for the professionals. What if for example, suddenly we had schools where only one teacher was required to teach other people how to teach in the classroom.

Make sure you know who is with your child most of the time, too. I've been reading a lot about students being found in restraints or left in isolation, for example. The reason why this happens is because children are left in environments where the majority of their time is spent with a well-meaning person who is not trained to be with them.

In some cases, an untrained or inexperienced person who is not familiar with your child's behaviors or needs can actually cause them to become agitated or aggressive. Many times they can enable or trigger behaviors that hinder progress.

It is so important you know the people with whom your child is spending the majority of his or her time. Is there a licensed special education teacher on the premises all the time? Are there licensed speech therapists? Are there licensed OTs/PTs or is one available to them to make the necessary adaptions/changes if needed? If there is a behavior issue, is there a behaviorist or psychologist ready to respond if needed?

The IEP should also identify how the IEP is being implemented. If the environment where all this is suppose to take place doesn't look right, if it looks too crowded or if there is sensory overload or not enough adults on hand, then that needs to be addressed in the IEP meeting. If you're not sure, ask the special education teacher his or her professional opinion about adaptions in the classroom that can be made for your child to help not hinder progress.

Most importantly, make sure you understand your child's medical diagnosis upside down and backward and the challenges it presents for your child. Are there limitations? What is the neurological situation? What is the potential range for your child's ability? What makes your child tick?

Forget about what the other kids are doing unless you think you see a child that matches in ability, current skill level, or developmental patterns. But be careful here, too, because what works for one child may be disastrous for another.

Think this through. IEPs were created for your child, not for what other children are doing. Look at what your child can do and start from there. The "I" still stands for "individual, " the "E" still stands for "education" and the "P" still stands for "plan" regardless of what changes we read.

Get to know the district psychologist and their theories, methodologies, and instruments they use mapping the personalized development chart identifying your child strengths and special abilities. Determine if this clearly describes what your child is capable of in the classroom. If not, find out if there an alternative that will reflect best what your child is capable according to their own ability.

Get to know your district representatives. If you decide the classroom is not beneficial to his or her learning style or pattern of development or behaviors, then talk about creating an environment that will help your child grow in their area of need and ability.

Make sure you have on board during your IEP meetings a board licensed special education teacher who will be working directly with your child making the special adaptions and changes in the classroom because very few teachers have the resources or the time to do this for your child. Most importantly, make sure there are present in the IEP meeting an OT/PT/Speech/Behaviorist/Vision Specialists/Interventionist Advocate and anyone else who can aid in creating a special education plan for your child according to his or her own ability.

They say parents are the best advocates, but I have learned early in the journey, it helps to get to know the experts who keep current with research & studies about your child's special diagnosis. Sometimes they can help explain better what your child's needs are in the classroom. Or if the classroom is not the place for your child, an environment that will allow your child to benefit from a special education based on their emerging skills and special abilities.

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