I was asked recently from someone preparing to do a training for a school staff, “what makes a quality IEP from the parent perspective – not just the meeting piece, but the actual plan and document?”
I have loads of ideas and recommendations on how to make the meeting itself comfortable – think food and a box of tissues!
But for the actual document…. that was a different perspective for me. Here was my immediate response:
I think the important piece is you have to send the IEP document to the parents ahead of time – the way the DC Easy IEP is now laid out – the IEP document can be very confusing! One thing that a Special Ed coordinator did last year which I thought was awesome – was to highlight the actual goals by color, so everyone could flip right to the pink highlighted goals for speech, yellow for OT, etc., (when you have kids like mine – they have 30-40 page IEPs, so just navigating the document can be a challenge!)
The team needs to be prepared to make sure the goals are appropriate – not just the same every year, and that they grow with the child. My 11 year old 5th grader struggles with Math, and something that was added last spring were goals directed specifically to calculator use. At some point we have to focus on life skills, and if she can’t hold the multiplication table in her working memory because of her executive functioning deficits, but can figure out how to comfortably use a calculator (like on her iphone) then that is a strong working skill for math and for life skill development.
Same goes with OT and handwriting – if you have an IEP for a student 5th grade or higher with handwriting – I think that is just wrong – focus on keyboarding! Speech to text apps or supports, etc. Getting the goals to match the student’s needs for strategies that make sense for their future lives.
It is so important for an IEP team to watch out for the use of acronyms and SPED talk – most parents don’t know what you mean when we talk about transition, language-based curriculum, etc.
I guess I can’t end without saying that the team needs to start with the positive – talk about the child’s strengths or growth that year before delving into what is in the new IEP.