It's That Time of Year Again...
IEP Time! IEP stands for "individual education plan" and is part of the NSW Department of Education's goal to provide "personalised learning and support is a process that supports a wide range of students with additional learning and support needs." Other states will have a similar system. It is a great opportunity to meet with school, bring the team together, and look at what is important in the school setting for your child, for the upcoming year.
Here are some ways to help prepare for the process.
Think about how far your child has come in the past year. What were the good things? What are the things they need more support on? Talk to others - family members, therapists, get their input.
Write it Down
It can be very tricky in the moment to remember everything you want to say, and IEP meetings can be quite quick. Come prepared with some goals, or ideas of goals already drafted.
Bring a Support Person
Having someone there who can support you - a partner, friend, therapist/Clinician, can be helpful not only for yourself, but to advocate for your child, as well. They also might be able to take notes throughout the meeting, so you can reflect on it later.
Ask to Review the Notes from the Meeting Overnight
The school might ask you to agree and sign off on goals, right then and there in the meeting. If you think you need more time, tell them you will take it home, think about it further, and get back to them. Having more time to review the notes and goals, will be helpful to clarify things and ensure they are the right goals for your child.
Set Objective and Measurable Goals
Try to have the goals written in very objective and measurable terms. How will you be able to tell if your child has met the goals? Adding a measurement of sort (number of sight words read, time spent in class without an aide, number of social comments made to peers etc) will help you to be able to objectively see if your child has moved towards their goals. This goes hand in hand with data collection - you need information of where your child is at, at the beginning of the year, and then again, at the end of the year.
Remember Who You're There For!
Everyone is there to support the child at the centre of the IEP process. People coming from different areas will have different priorities. You as the parent, know your child the best, and if they cannot advocate for themselves, you are doing that for them. For inspiration, a great advocate is Chrissy from Life with Greyson and Parker. It would be great if your child could attend and be part of the meeting, but I know that is not always possible. I attended one meeting where Mum brought along a photo of her child. This was really nice to refer back to throughout the meeting, and kept allowing us to look at things objectively, for him.
It's a rough process, so make sure you use your "first --> then" chart and have something really potentially reinforcing afterwards, to help you continue to attend these IEP meetings in the future :) Good luck!