Friday, October 7, 2011

31 for 21: Braska’s 2011-2012 IEP, part 1


IEPs can be scary.  Some people dread them.  Some people just ignore them.  (I’ve been shocked at the stories I’ve heard at our school and in our area about parents who don’t even attend, or who just sit and listen and say, “Whatever” in a non-caring way.) 

I don’t dread them or ignore them.  I view them as an important part of the process of educating Braska and getting the best services for her that we can.

There are a lot of parts of the IEP, and this isn’t really meant to be a technical lesson on that process.  Though if you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask… I may just refer you to pros in your area. There are great training organizations out there who can equip you very well.  Around here that’s MPACT, and I’ve been to several of their workshops.

But feel free to chime in with experiences or tips or your favorite parts of the process!

The first part of the meeting is always the most important part: FOOD!  I never show up to an IEP meeting of any kind without some kind of goodies.  If in a hurry, it could be M&Ms or trail mix, but I generally bake, since my meetings are usually at 9am.  I’ve done coffee cake, donuts, cinnamon rolls, pumpkin bread, and others.  Sometimes I’ve even taken little pairs of wrapped cookies so they can take and have after lunch, too.  Some meetings I’ve taken drinks, others I’ve skipped that part.

This time, with sick tots the days leading up to the meeting, I went the easy route… Great Harvest Bread Company and QT.  I picked up a couple kinds of fall breads, Cranberry Almond and Cinnamon Chip, as well as some blueberry cream cheese scones.  Then I hit QT on the way and got 4 large cappuccinos in different flavors, with extra cups so we could share them.  These are always a hit! 

All in all, super easy, not expensive, and the impact is huge.  These team members do a lot of IEP meetings, they work with kids all day, and to sit in a meeting with something yummy to nibble on and a pick-me-up drink is a treat to them.  They are always excited, even though my team knows there will be goodies before they get there.  Julie and I have developed a bit of a reputation at our school.  And we’re trying to teach the other parents we come in contact with how big a difference this can make to the comfortable feeling in the room.  It puts everyone at ease and makes the whole process less business and more conversation, which tends to benefit all involved.

Once the food is all arranged and people are settled in, we generally start with the Present Level element.  This just states where Braska is currently in a variety of categories.  I like that they start with her strengths, then talk about her areas of weakness (none of which are a surprise, of course) and then we go over each of her therapy areas to talk about her current abilities.

Some snippets from Braska’s Present Level:
~Letter and number recognition.
~Sight word identification
~Happy and enjoys being around peers and teachers
~Greets adults by name
~Easily adapts to changes in her day

~Difficulty in visual motor interferes with task completion and fine motor skill development.
~Delays in sensory processing, motor planning, and self-help skills interfere with Nebraska’s feeding and drinking tasks during snack time.
~Decreased receptive language skills affect her ability to follow directions with 2 or more components.

I’ll continue with more of the Present Level next…

What’s your IEP experience? Good? Bad? Dreading the next one? Why?