I was just having a conversation with a new friend who asked me about our experiences with the school system as Elizabeth was growing up.  I told her that it was a struggle to have them truly understand how Elizabeth worked, her true needs and then of course, the ability to adapt and modify as her needs changed and as she matured and grew.  Her special needs of sensory processing disorder ( SPD) and dyspraxia made it very challenging!

I continued to tell her about the need for strong advocacy and how because of it, the school did listen better and we did, for the most part, work as a team.  But the thing I did stress to my friend was the need to remember and make sure others remembered what the ‘I” in IEP really stands for.  I think so much of the time, it is easy to forget this.

But the “I” stands for Individualized.

Meaning goals  for my child specifically.

Meaning goals for your child specifically.

Meaning goals for EACH child specifically.

I have found that sometimes a teacher will see something going well for one child and assume that it will work for another child and even the entire class.  There was a time for Elizabeth that we pushed for her to get a Spanish class on her schedule.  She asked for the class, wanted to take the class, and even had her sister teaching her some Spanish words. So she REALLY wanted it.

Long story short, she did get the class but not by herself but with 3 others who had no real interest in the class and who required more attention to keep focused. The class we hoped would be her own time, turned out quite differently. When I asked why the others, who did not really want to take the class, joined in the very class that we had to fight for, I was told that it was easier for the aides to be with a group then try to be one on one.  But is that following the “I” for both Elizabeth and the others?

I wanted to share that story ( and there are more where that came from) because it is almost time to face the IEP season.

And trust me, I know just how scary, tough and emotional those can be. Sadly, this is mostly the case.  So I think taking the time, well before the IEP meeting, to do some thinking about your child’s true needs is crucial.

Ask yourself: What are the “I”s for your child. 

-What has changed this year?

-What do you want or hope to see next year?

-What don’t you want to see on the IEP next year?

Getting mentally prepared and strengthened is very important.  Write down your thoughts.

Don’t forget you are the voice and strength for your child.

I wish everyone a peaceful week.

Michele Gianetti author of “I Believe In You: A Mother and Daughter’s Special Journey” and “Emily’s Sister