I'm sitting with my cup of coffee, on a snowy spring morning and catching up on my emails when I come across some advice that is being given to parents... and it's not sitting with me well. It's encouraging "game playing" when advocating for your child. That's not going to work... not "these days".
I've been coaching parents, teachers, and IEP teams for over 20 years. I've worked on the "inside" as a teacher and have worn about many different hats on IEP teams from the "outside". I can tell you one thing with certainty... The Special Education "Game" has changed and old school "us vs them" strategies don't work for good long term outcomes.
Leadership is what is truly being craved by our special education teams. This includes EVERYONE on the team, parents, teachers, therapists, admins and yes... the child.
We need LEADERS on our teams who will do these 4 things:
Learn what questionst to ask Before, During and After... YOUR IEP MEETING!
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When I went to hear the author of this book, Tim Elmore, speak, I had no idea how much his perspective would resonate with me as I help teachers and parents build meaningful special education plans. I could write for days on the strategies inside this book, but I promise you, it's worth the read (get it on amazon here).
This is NOT a special education book. In fact, I rarely look to special education books to find inspiration for special education ideas. In my experience, the best IEP ideas come from the real world and then we tweak and modify, as needed, to help every child benefit.
I will share with you one of the biggest take aways from this book that I'm bringing to every teacher and parent I work with... Create EPIC experiences for children in every environment, as much as possible. This means checking your lessons & IEP goal work for...
What is the child's experience during this learning session?
How will they participate?
When people meet my daughters, they know instantly that they are so very different from each other. You can see it on their faces, as they're about to launch into the air at Mall of America at Nickelodeon Universe.
One is looking down and talking herself through the next steps. The other is looking up with pure anticipation of the rush.
One is analytical. One loves the gray areas.
One sees adventure in the unknown. One needs all the details.
One loves the flow of a lazy day. One craves structure.
Their differences are a big reason why we travel. Why we go out of our comfort zone. Why we make them both push their limits with new experiences.
There are so many times that I wasn't sure we could conquer the next adventure as a special needs family, but somehow we always found a way. We practiced. We gathered the tools. We did the work to create the fun!
My "job" is to help you, the special needs parent, the teacher, the therapist, write an awesome IEP to help a...
Special Education Parents and Teachers... We simply can't know where we are going with confidence if we don't start using the Parent Input statement effectively.
As a former special education teacher, I know first hand that this section is often glanced over. Yes, it's filled out. Yes, parent concerns are summarized. However, it's definitely not given the time and attention it needs considering what a critical change it can make in the IEP process.
Being a special needs sibling I watched my mom struggle to have her voice heard. She never gave up, but honestly, she didn't always take a diplomatic approach. (I totally get WHY, but if I can help a parent avoid that level of frustration, I will!)
It's time to take the BOLD IEP APPROACH and make the parents voice a significant driver in the IEP process.
Each and every Parent Input statement should include the parent's concerns and desired...
If you sit at an IEP table, this checklist is for you! Parents, teachers, therapists and support team members... you can all use this tool for your next IEP meeting!