A friend of mine posted on facebook a few weeks ago that she was dreading her son’s IEP. I have heard this from many moms (and a few dads), and it always frustrates me. While I am a speech language pathologist and a creator of said IEPs, I have also been on the other side of the table as a parent. It is an interesting experience to have the perspective of both sides of the coin. Why is the very document that is supposed to be an individualized road map for everyone working together, often an anxiety producing fear-fest?
The SLP side of me really tries to engage my families in creating goals that are meaningful, will move their child forward in functional and academic ways, and most importantly, are realistic and achievable. I cringe when I see a list of 59+ goals for one kiddo; I am exhausted just reading it!! All of them may be great goals, but when you have so many at one time, you dilute the efficacy of what you are trying to achieve and end up over-therapizing the child, leaving everyone frustrated. What happens to teachable moments that occur throughout the day? You can’t tap into them because you are so data driven (don’t even get me started on the “rigor” of the core that is moving at the speed of light). Yes you have data which is important, but therapy is sooo much more. It’s also about building trust and relationships that lead to growth.
Switching to my mom hat, I felt a lot more supported and engaged when I was included in the process, not just handed the draft with the goals already done. I know my child the best, just like most parents, and I had important input that was appreciated and considered. I also had a realistic view of what he could achieve and was okay with taking baby steps in the right direction. If he made leaps and bounds, fantastic, but I understood that language and learning is a complex road that takes time. As long as the teachers and therapists were communicating the good, bad and ugly with me, I could trust that we were moving in the right direction. When my son got older (heading to middle school), a smart special education teacher suggested that he become part of his IEP team. It was wonderful medicine for him to hear positives from his teachers and it added a level of personal accountability when he realized the adults in his life would be partnering with him with his progress.
I have made checklists here for parents and therapists to use in the IEP process.
Hopefully it will help make the process a more positive experience for everyone! What are some great tips for IEPs that you have?