The reading below is my personal experience with IEP's and how they have helped me understand and meet my daughter's educational needs.
Any IEP moms/ families out there? How are you planning out your kids school year? Most of you are probably asking yourself what is a IEP? An IEP is a Individualized Education Program. According to https://www.washington.edu/accesscomputing/what-difference-between-iep-and-504-plan an IEP is a plan or program developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives specialized instruction and related services.
My oldest child Madison was born premature at 1lb 3oz. From the womb to the NICU she was under special care. During her stay in the NICU she received services to help her little body manage with the outside world. When we were finally able to bring her home she was able to continue to receive the same services she got in the NICU. The services she received were occupational, speech, and physical therapy. As she grew older she was able attend a specialized school that catered to her exact needs. When Madison aged out things became a little challenging. Finding her the right school that matched her needs was difficult.
Your probably saying now well what does this have to do with an IEP? This has everything to do with an IEP. When searching for the right school for your child find out if the school caters to your child’s IEP needs. This may seem obvious, but it’s not. When interviewing schools ask questions. They ask you questions about your child, you should be able to ask them questions concerning your child as well. Ask questions like do they enroll children with IEP's? How do they receive children like your child? Do they have children like your child? How large is the average class size? Is there space for your child? Can they manage a tantrum, a panic attack, or an anxiety attack? When a child is triggered how do you go about dealing with it before the situation escalates? All of these questions should have answers that make you feel comfortable.
Understanding your child’s IEP takes a ton of patience. It’s nearly the size of a booklet of what you and your child’s teachers have agreed upon to be the way to navigate your child’s educational instruction for that school year. Going through those pages can be intimidating but it can be done. Do not skim through it, because you will miss out on some vital topics. Ask your child’s teacher questions. Ask questions that may sound silly to you. It’s better that you ask than be confused later. Questions like how is she doing with this activity? How can I help her at home? Is there anything you recommend I try? The goal is to get your child the help that they need so that they are not behind, at least that’s how I see it. If you do not understand something as small as a sentence in the IEP seek help!! Locate the school psychologist, a teacher that you’re familiar with, a parent who has been in your situation before. I can’t stress how important it is to get help. At the end of the day it will affect your child if the IEP is unclear to you.
When Madison started her elementary school career she briefly attended 2 schools before we found her current school. During Madison’s first year of elementary school she had a ton of meltdowns. She had tantrums galore, she cried daily, she didn't want to go school and now that I think of it she was having anxiety attacks. YES children can get anxiety attacks. She was in a completely different setting. At her previous school there was someone always there to cater to every single one of her needs. At public school that’s not happening. It was so different for her. She didn’t know how to respond to the lack of attention she felt she was getting.
Moving forward to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade it got much easier. I know it got easier for her because of the team of teachers, paras and her IEP. Her IEP has goals that are expected of her to achieve by the end of year. Just think of it as her very own progress report that is not compared to anyone else. Her IEP for kindergarten was asking for her to know and recognize all of her alphabets, numbers, hold her pencil correctly, walk up and down the stairs at a certain pace, read common and understand sight words and a host of other things. Of course many kids her age were able to do all these things but she just needed a little extra time. With time and the help of her IEP she did just that. Even now when she takes the state exams her IEP comes into play. She is allowed extra time to complete her test. Her IEP is completely different now and I’m thrilled that it is. She’s progressed in some many ways. Her teachers are still asking if this is the same Madison that entered the building years ago. There is still a lot of work that we need to get done to get her where she needs to be academically but with time she’ll get there.
Does your child have an IEP? I’d love for you to share your experience with it in the comments below.