The good and the bad of IEPs

What is Your IEP situation or expertise?:

I have had both a good and a bad experience with the IEP process. Both were in regard to my now 7 year old daughter who is on the autism spectrum.

In pre-kindergarden it was established by her school that she needed special education services and a plan was set up. At that point we knew nothing about what we were doing. However, her teachers at that time were really kind and knowledgeable about her needs.

In kindergarden the same IEP was used with a few additions and by the end of kindergarden year she was at nearly the same level educationally as her peers and had met or exceeded all of her IEP goals. She was still not potty trained and had some other emotional issues, but was at a high enough level that the teachers and school wanted to pull and reduce many of the special services that were on her IEP.
It was agreed upon that her hours would be greatly reduced starting in first grade, the following year.

So, first grade began on a very bad note and only got worse. Even after having a revised IEP put into place a month after school began, the staff (which was all new) was unable to help her. By the holidays, she was refusing to go to school and had been suspended at least once. Things did not get much better and by the end of the year and included more suspensions for behaviors. The school was asking us what to do with her and had suggested holding her back, moving her to our district's special ed school (over an hour away by bus) which we were told was for the very emotionally disturbed. We really did not know how to help her or them, but they did not seem to be making any suggestions either.

So, school started last week for her (scond grade) and we began by having a somewhat informal meeting with the new staff before my daughter arrived. Again, the staff was all new, although the previous year's special ed teacher was in the building she wouldn't be teaching my daughter this year. The main differences though this year is that my daughter has some outside help and went through a summer camp where other childeren like her attended and where she had one on one help. The other difference is that the new special ed teacher worked for the special ed school in our district for several years and had worked directly with the new head of our county Autism Team (which had previously not been notified of our situation). So, having the same staff in place that worked with her during summer camp, and having new school staff in place who understand better what kids with autism may be like seems to have helped so far.

We are only in our second week of school and will have a new IEP at the end of this month, but so far, things are going much better. She has already been assigned a full time dedicated para teacher who has also worked with children like my daughter. I am not certain what they are doing at school until then, but she seems to be enjoying school so far and is actually coming home with completed work sheets.

I look forward to seeing what they suggest for this year.
Jenn Brockman