Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Surviving the IEP

I sat down today to begin a post all about preparing for your child’s IEP (Individual Education Plan) meeting. Our end of year meeting is coming up this week, so I thought it would be a good time to share my wisdom. Wisdom? Ok, how about my preparedness? Really? Honestly, my intention was to give you something helpful.
I even considered naming it The 5 Best Tips to Help You Prepare for Your Child’s IEP. I wondered, who would my audience be? Would it be parents whose children have a visible and diagnosed learning disability? Or would it be parents whose kids have a rare diagnosis,  a parent with a kid who looked and acted like everyone else but just learned differently? Is that too much to consider? I thought I would tell you in a really smart fashion, all the right steps you should take, and it would go something like this...
1.       Consider your goals for the upcoming school year and be specific.

2.       Have your questions written down and ready to ask.

3.       Know what your child’s strengths and weaknesses are.

Oh hell, who am I kidding? I do all that, and it all goes to shit the moment we all sit down and the first words come out of someone’s mouth. I have left that school more often than not, feeling like a scorned child myself, who has not been heard, who has not been respected, and whose opinion and knowledge were cast aside because there is a curriculum that should be followed and not enough people who actually care who is learning it. When I say care, I mean really care. I don’t mean people who are doing the basics of their job just to survive the everyday crap that they have to put up with. I don’t mean the people who are putting in their time waiting for retirement. I don’t mean those who want to care, but they are too busy disciplining kids who should be better behaved but are not because they don’t learn anything constructive at home! I want teachers who care about education, learning, equipping our kids with endless amounts of knowledge, inspiration and acceptance. I had those kinds of teachers, did you?
In this post I made up in my head, I really wanted to share my knowledge of what works best at planning for your child’s IEP. I have read other peoples suggestions, talked to other parents, to no avail. Here is the thing; all our kids are so damn different. An IEP should work, because it’s “individual”, so in theory, the meetings happen, people agree to goals set, strengths and weaknesses, adaptations, the whole shebang.
When the time comes, to go to the IEP meetings, I really just want to know how to survive them, leave without crying and not have the overwhelming feeling of wanting to puke and hit someone!
This has been my experience for the last 5 years. Mine alone and I speak for no one else but me. I wonder, would it be any easier if my daughter had a diagnosis that was as common as ADHD, Autism, Down Syndrome?  I doubt it, I know some of those parents own frustrations with the school system. Oh how about this, the craziest one yet that qualifies someone for an educational assistant level 2 funding.....wait for it, behavioural issues. You don’t even want to get me started on this. Some of these kids are smart, intelligent, kids, they are capable of learning. They just never learned to be capable, responsible and respectful. There are so many times I wanted to be the bad parent and just say “honey, the next time you get upset, just punch Sally in the face!” Hey, maybe if I did this in grade one, she would have level 2 funding. I am joking of course. Right? I thought school was to teach, to learn, to get an education, not parented and controlled.
As well as I know each kid and their needs are different, I know every school, every group of teachers, and every situation has its own set of circumstances.
So here in lies the best advice I have given myself on attending, and surviving through an IEP meeting.

·         Be prepared with your goals, yes it’s a must. Make those goals for your child, and adapt them as the years go on to what the abilities of your child are, because they do change.

·         Take someone with you to take notes when you are talking, to hold your hand when you are crying, to speak for you when you are overcome by emotion. I would say here, leave your emotions at home, but we are parents, and this is the only school education they are going to get and it’s important.  Emotions creep in, no matter how strong you are.

·         Consider being as prepared as you would be for an interview. Have a set of questions written down, think about how you will respond to their questions, and be professional.

·         Tell them what has worked and what has not worked in the class for your child this year. As an example, the one thing I will say in my IEP meeting is one day to prepare for a social studies test is unacceptable! Do they not know that it took me a whole year to teach this child how to do two digit multiplications?

·         Learn the following words and their meaning as they relate to your child’s learning challenges; cognitive, input, output, integration, and storage.
I summer home school my daughter, and she sees a tutor. So here is the bottom line for me. Do I really worry so much about this IEP

This guy here is why we don't often summer school at home! We have changing destinations!

I read once that over the summer, kids lose approximately 20% of what they learned. So while my kid is forgetting 20% of what she didn't learn, I am trying to teach her at least 40% of what she should know. So where does that leave us?
One last thing I have learned, is that on the day of my child’s IEP meeting, I am prepared to come home and have a good cry, a glass of wine, and I don’t make any plans for the rest of the day, just so I can recover from the trauma! But hey, at least I know what to expect!
I would love to hear from you, your thoughts and experiences with school IEP’s. Help a girl out and tell me please, that I am not the only one who sits there feeling the need to puke and punch someone!
Thanks for stopping by!


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