Ok, so I got started this morning, and later talked with people and got reminders of other things that we do to help an IEP go smoothly. I also had a few requests posted (which I don't think have been published yet because I read them while on the phone).
Anyway... here's a little more about IEP's!
When preparing for the IEP, if your team is open to it, talk to them before the meeting. Your teachers and therapists are likely in contact with your child on a regular basis if your child is already in school, but if this is a first IEP, especially, then the team may or may not really know your child. Even if the child is already in school, input from home is never a bad thing! Making up a quick document that says some of your current concerns or things you'd like to see done in the next year and giving that to your IEP team ahead of the meeting while they are still determining goals and writing up the IEP.
For families with a brand new IEP-- whether it's because you've moved, adopted a new child, have a child entering in as a 3 yr old into the school system, or have a child newly-diagnosed with the need for an IEP-- giving the IEP team a little background information can be very beneficial! Each time that we adopted we wrote up a bio and sent it in to the IEP team ahead of time. I haven't finished Wesley's yet (Aleksa's was done this afternoon!) but in general I tell four basic things: background of the child including info pre-adoption, behavior, what things we have been working on at home and how the child is doing with those skills, and what your brief outlook is for the coming year for your child.
That was a big piece that I'd left out :) Communicate BEFORE the meeting!!
A second thing is KNOW YOUR RIGHTS. Know the laws. Know what IDEA is, what FAPE is, and what the LRE means. Those three are biggies, and so are their meanings :). IDEA is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and is the federal law that supports our children's rights to certain things. FAPE means Free Appropriate Public Education. LRE is the Least Restrictive Environment. That is a piece of IDEA and means that your child's placement decision should START by looking at full inclusion and from there go into more restrictive placements based on the needs of the child and what aspects of that child's disability may make it difficult for the child to be fully included with their typical peers.
I would HIGHLY recommend Wrights Law. Peter and Pam Wright have written MANY books and also have a great website that supports parents and disabled persons. They also have conferences across the country listed out on their website. I'll be attending one in June! :)
Also, someone asked what we wish an IEP team knew before the meeting. I only have my own take on this, but I will share...
I think there are some definite things an IEP team should know before the meeting. One major thing is to make sure the team knows what your intentions are. What are your goals for the next year and your intentions for placement? Even if a school doesn't agree with my intentions for my child, I would rather not blindside them with my ideas At the same time, I want to prepare myself knowing what I desire for my child and knowing WHY I want that :). It helps to be able to say what the reasoning is, and what the laws are that support that as well.
A second thing that the team should know is the child's background. If there are unique aspects of the child that may not be obvious, changes taking place in the home, or other info that you think may be important, then those are definite things I would be sure to let the IEP team know ahead of time.
Lastly, the IEP team should come to the meeting with something that no parent can just "say" to them and make them aware of. The IEP team should come to the meeting with something that the parents also must come with (after all, parents ARE part of the IEP team!). That something is VERY important, and can really make the meeting go well. It's the knowledge that one part of the team without the other won't work. And that each part of the team brings something very important to the table!
So, there's the second IEP post of the day :). Feel free to post any comments (and YES, they will be published, when I get to it! LOL). Please consider leaving comments on the BLOG rather than FB so that they stay with the post for others that are looking back at this post later on :).