Aww yes...IEP's. Where shall I begin? First, I put my expertise as experienced in the administration of IEP's because my son has had an IEP for 9 years. I think for me, I would count as experienced.
I do not regret the IEP, nor does it make me happy. I feel that the IEP is widely overused today in our school systems; I suppose it is “easier” in some cases, however, some children do in fact need them, as my son does. He was diagnosed at 4 years old w/ ADHD, and was re-diagnosed in his preteens with ADD/Bipolar Disorder. He has almost no fine motor skills, lacks short term memory almost completely among many other things. What a roller coaster ride it has been for him, but he is a trooper.
The best thing learned for me was, be my child’s ADVOCATE. I have stayed informed about my kid’s medical condition. Nobody knows my child more than I do. There will be teachers, administrators and mentors that may care or work with my child, but this is my child. If I do not feel that something is right or will or will not work for him, I say so. It cannot happen if I refuse to sign those papers. Period. I am open and honest with his Pediatrician and private councilors about everything, much to my son’s embarrassment sometimes. I will NEVER sign medical release forms for the school district to have access to my child’s medical records. Neither medical nor psychiatric. They are a school system not a healthcare system. When they persist, I tell them I will hand deliver any info to and fro.
I remember my sons first IEP like it was yesterday. Walking into a room with administrators all around the table looking at me, very awkward. This was all new to me too. They make their “professional” suggestions, as they should, as to what they feel is best for your child educationally, behaviorally, and socially. I left that meeting and was angry at myself for being so timid.
After that, I grew a pair, got online, educated myself, contacted PAI (Protection and Advocacy, Inc) in Sacramento, CASE (Community Alliance For Special Education) in San Francisco to get any free books they would send me on the issue and checked my shame (parents with disabled kids feel this sometimes, right?) and pride at the door. Reminded myself that this was a child that God gave to me to love and provide for and from that day on I have tried my best. Even if it meant a very heated discussion or two (or 10 or 20) with administrators about my kid. Oh well. Make them respect you by staying tuned in and involved. I respect them for the time and energy they give my son and me hovering (I’m a “helicopter” mom) all the time. I have learned that honey is better than vinegar, but not to compromise what is best for my boy.
There was, and still is, teachers and school site case workers along the way who have been very caring and valuable to me, then there are those that I just want to throttle, and wonder just what the hell are they doing working here? I have learned to take what I can use and to just leave the rest. I can request to change any part of the IEP at any time. It does take some time if you have to send in a written request for a meeting, but IEP’s are not written in stone. What worked six months ago may not work today.
In conclusion, there have been many good things to come out of my son’s IEP. I mentioned earlier that he has poor fine motor skills. We have included in his IEP that he can give answers to test verbally when not timed, and if it is timed, he is allowed a bit more time than the average bear because he has a hard time writing, it is almost unreadable especially if he is in a hurry. The school has paid for some test for his motor skills, but to no avail. Because he is on an IEP these test are free.
My son has been fortunate to have a smaller class size for most classes, which he needs for math especially. Because of his short attention span and mood swings, this has been an asset for him. There would be no way that a teacher with 30 plus kids in the class would have time to sit with my son to get his answers to school work verbally, so the smaller class size was key for us.
He started high school this year, and only needs Spec. Ed for Math and Science. The fifth grade was the last year he was in Spec. Ed for the entirety of the day. He has worked really hard to be where he is now. There is still the peer pressure, medication and awkwardness, but I would like to finish by saying to anyone reading this with and IEP child: It gets easier if you stay tuned in, I promise you. The school district is not out to get you. Get in there and make it work. Your input is invaluable. Your child depends on it.