My journey with my daughter, Elizabeth, has made preparing and reviewing her IEP’s part of our Spring. For us, it is about preparing ahead of time and good communication.

My daughter has Sensory Processing Disorder ( SPD) and Global Dyspraxia. Both disorders make themselves known each day of her life and make life hard work each day. I will say that earlier in her life, it was the SPD that seemed to be the bigger of the two issues for her. She found near to all sensations, tastes and experiences in life to be “wrong” or aversive to her. As there are many kinds of SPD, I will share that the kind she has was once called Sensory Defensiveness. Basically, she was made anxious by the littlest things in life. So it was very hard to teach or work with Elizabeth and even harder for her.

As time has gone on, it seems that Dyspraxia is the main player. The ability to perform a task. initiate the steps to do a task, or organize the steps to do a task. All are challenging. Now at 23 years old, she has learned so much in her life and has made amazing gains in her life. BUT, she is still a work in progress and things are still hard for her. Having Global Dyspraxia means that all muscles and their planning were/are affected so she has had a form of speech therapy since she was 2.

Add in an auditory processing disorder and you can see the complexity of the beautiful young lady. This complexity has made it absolutely crucial for everyone to understand her, her disorders and our goals. It all starts with good communication.

During our journey we have done a great number of IEP’s and what I have learned the most the experiences of prepping an IEP for a meeting is to:

To prepare early –

It is never to early to get your notes in order nor is it too early to start requesting any missing paperwork, such as progress reports, communication sheets or any report from any therapist. Start organizing in chronological order, so you can access the correct report related to a date or even a have at the ready a daily communication related an untoward behavior from your child. I remember once Elizabeth came home with a tough note from a substitute teacher, she was in high school, this teacher wrote about a situation that happened in gym class and how she was going to offer some suggestions to the intervention specialist. I remember addressing the issue right away, explaining Elizabeth to her and getting to the other side of this…. but holding onto the note to make sure to share it at the IEP meeting as this allowed me the ability to change the verbiage in the IEP narrative about substitutes and their role in her education process.

To communicate to everyone

This one takes time. Especially if you have private therapists. Getting those who work with your child outside of the school to communicate with those in the school kind of completes the circle and allows everyone to be on the same page for your child. If your child goes to tutoring, a work program or anything, they need to be part of the team. I have found hearing first hand from those working with your child to be as mighty as test scores as test scores can’t and often don’t fully represent our children.

To read and reread the IEP

Sure, you know you helped write it but reading it and rereading it helps you know JUST what you are going to be talking about. It helps you see that 75% of the time CAN and SHOULD be upped to a higher percentage or that 3/5 trials is too much for now.

Knowing what is there helps you prepare for what your child needs going forward.

Tell how the year really went:

Ahh, remote learning. Hybrid learning or full time in person learning. All brought challenges to our children and even more so to those with special needs. SHARE IT ALL! Write it down and share away. The good, the tough, the successes and the struggles. Maybe your child loves being on the video call or maybe you absolutely cannot get them to sit long enough to complete a class..

Share it all so that everyone knows and can work as a team.

I have found that starting early and preparing well for the IEP changes helps so much.

I wish everyone a peaceful week and please keep wearing a mask!

Michele Gianetti author of Elizabeth Believes in Herself

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