Thursday, April 6, 2017

It's That Time of Year Again!

Every year around this time I start receiving phone calls about annual IEP meetings for my three children with special needs.

An IEP is an Individualized Educational Plan.  Children who  have a disability (as identified by the law) can have an IEP.  This ensures that each disabled child has special education services and specialized instruction.

During these meetings we discuss if a child still qualifies for special education services, how many hours they qualify for, how much instruction, what type, etc, etc.  I am grateful for these services which help each child with a disability receive the type of education he or she needs.  I have 3 children who qualify, hence I have at least 3 IEP meetings per year and often more.

This year is Grace's MET year.   A MET is a Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team consisting of 2 or more people who evaluate a student to see if they qualify for a disability.  This team meets with students and performs tests such as Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-V);  Woodcock Johnson Test of Achievement (WJ); the Adaptive Behavior Assessment System; and so on.

Sometimes the list of tests is overwhelming and intimidating.  And my poor Grace will undergo hours of tests which can be quite tiring and tedious.

So yes, I have a love/hate relationship with IEP's and MET's.

IEP's can be wonderful places where great ideas are discussed on how to help each child.  Sometimes, however, they can be discussion about laws, definitions, and limitations laced with legal terms and frustrated tempers.

In one of my first IEP meetings I did something that helped focus the meeting and I have tried to do it at each successive meeting.

Before we began discussing Levi in this IEP meeting, I presented the educators with a picture of him.

I then began discussing all the good things I loved about Levi: how he loved animals. How he laughed at Sponge Bob.  How he swam like a fish and loved chicken nuggets with barbecue sauce.  I wanted each educator in that room to see Levi as a person, a child with real dreams, wishes, hopes and desires.

Later the school psychologist told me that meeting changed the way she conducted IEPs. She made an effort after that to start with the strengths and personality of the child.

Sometimes we get so caught up in what the child CANNOT do that we forget what the child CAN do.  We are so busy discussing difficult behavior issues that we forget to see unique and fun personality traits.  We see the disability and forget to see the abilities.

So in three weeks when I go to discuss Grace, I will bring a picture of her.  And I will come prepared with all the things I love about Grace that I can share with the educators who will be part of her IEP. We might still disagree about a few things, but this will help us keep in mind the child behind the diagnosis and the real reason we are all here.

I would love to hear how you come prepared for IEP meetings and what you do to keep focused.

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