Is it just me or are there a hell of a lot of acronyms used in the disability world? It seems like every second term has an abbreviated version that is used, as if it wasn’t already confusing enough! Some of you may be thinking an ‘IEP’, a what now?
An IEP simply means an Individualised Education Plan/Program. In a nutshell this is a plan that is put in place to ensure students’ needs are considered so that they thrive in their school environment. To bring some context to this, my daughter has autism and gets extremely overwhelmed with not having a clear routine for the day. So, this is a part of her IEP plan, her teacher provides a visual on her desk, so she knows what to expect. Some children may fidget and have a hard time focusing, perhaps a sensory cushion is provided during floor learning time.
To ensure that an IEP is done successfully there needs to be a collaboration between parents, carers, and the schooling staff. Here are some tips and tricks to ensure your IEP plan is successful.
Start with a positive frame of mind
Perhaps there have been some issues or times where you haven’t been happy with the school. I try to see setbacks as a learning opportunity, perhaps the school is lacking in an area and all that is needed is some extra insight or communication. Going into an IEP meeting with a negative mindset or holding a grudge isn’t going to get you anywhere and could set the tone for the meeting.
Begin the meeting with hopes and dreams for your child
Setting high expectations at the beginning of the meeting can assist in setting the bar high for your child’s education goals. My hopes and dreams for my daughter is that she feels equipped to tackle obstacles independently in all environments, gains confidence and knowledge to strive to be able to secure employment when she is older and feel safe and supported when she is at school.
Setting this vision of what my hopes and dreams are also means in the short term she needs to be taught skills for independence in her school environment, requires adequate aides around the school to support her independence, needs a solid academic education to continue to challenge her cognitively and will need supporting staff to understand the needs that her disabilities present.
Have staff share something positive about your child
I’m lucky in that the school my daughter attends they just naturally do this. They begin the meeting chatting about all the goals that my daughter is conquering, and we chat about all the positive aspects of how she has coped at school over the last few months.
If they didn’t lead this conversation, I would mention a win or achievement that I have witnessed and then bring the conversation to them “Have you also seen this?” or “I’m curious to find out what goals you have seen my daughter reach over the last few months?”
Have you ever had a time where you thought ‘Dam, why didn’t I mention that’? You don’t want your child’s IEP meeting to be one of those times! Prior to the meeting start jotting down goals or challenges for your child. That way you’re more prepared to bring up everything during the meeting and not get side tracked.
Be open to compromise
Again, I have been very lucky in that I’ve managed to score an epic team for my daughter. Unfortunately, this might not be the case for all. I think it’s important to be mindful that not everything is going to be able to be given. Be prepared to compromise and have one or two things that you have that you’ll ‘give up’. This makes you appear “reasonable” which, in turn, makes educators more willing to be reasonable.
Communication is vital between the school and families and it’s important to build a strong relationship. Following up with an email saying something like ‘I want to thank you for a successful meeting, and I am confident that what we discussed will ensure my daughter continues to thrive’. Not only is it polite and keeps that communication going it also sends the message that you are a parent that will be monitoring the progress made since the meeting.