Monday, December 6, 2010

Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings summary

I've had the pleasure of sitting on a few IEPs (Individual Education Plan) while on my pediatric fieldwork and I really enjoyed them.

In a nutshell, various professions in education--psychologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech pathologist, special education teacher, classroom teacher, nurse, case manager, paraprofessional and any other professional, and parents all meet together to discuss the needs and goals of the child's education. Everyone gets a turn to speak and report on observations, evaluations, assessments, interventions and outcomes. They also each report on how the child is progressing and if he should remain eligible for their service over the next year.

These meetings can last for HOURS. Of course, the time flew for me because I am a student and everything is new and fascinating but I can see how over time these meetings can be frustrating if people come late or unprepared. On at least 3 occasions the parents did not show up or were so late my supervisor and I had to leave to make appointments at other schools to see our regularly scheduled kids.

I also noticed how some professionals use words that may be unfamiliar to some parents, particularly to those with certain educational backgrounds. Words such as bell curve, fine motor, adaptive equipment, pincer grasp, range of motion, etc., may be unfamiliar to some parents. As professionals we must remember to speak in layman's terms so that everyone in the meeting can participate and understand what is being said. It's also important so that parents feel comfortable enough to participate in the meeting and ask questions.

As professionals we need to be aware of what is not being said during these meetings. I noticed that some parents were very passive and only spoke when a question was asked; the professionals dictated what was to be done to their child and they went along with it. Other parents were very proactive and asked lots of questions and had a very aggressive (but not in a negative way) role in the meeting. I think that when we notice parents are passive and go along with what is being said we need to ask them for their input because what they think is important.
Additionally, it's important not to speak so negatively about the child to the parent that you make the kid sound like an idiot. In some instances, I felt badly for the parents as professionals talked about the kid as if they were slow, or stupid or amazingly abnormal. This is still someone's kid and although as the professional what you say may be the truth, it's still rather crass and insensitive to speak so poorly about the child. Every child has SOME thing they do well and at some point it's beneficial to reflect on what the child does well. Parents are an integral part of these meetings and without their cooperation and support some of these kids won't progress.

On that same note, it's important for parents to consider that professionals have appointments to make and their world does not revolve around you. Be sure to confirm the time of your appointment if you plan to attend and then, actually BE THERE at that time. If you will be late CALL THE SCHOOL and inform someone that you will be late. It's frustrating for people to sit twiddling their thumbs waiting for parents to attend the meetings because everyone has paperwork to complete, other meetings to attend and kids to see. So much time could be saved if people would communicate their whereabouts and intentions.

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