Individualized by definition means “to adapt to the needs or special circumstances of an individual.” It doesn’t mean standardized or typical or “that’s the way we always do it.”
Each spring over the past five years, we receive our notice to appear for a meeting at Jasmine’s school to discuss and solidify her individualized education program (IEP) for the next school year. I used to be terrified and nervous about her new IEP because I felt inferior to the special education professionals, school administration, and teachers in the room. I seem to prepare myself for a fight of some kind. I mean, they know Jasmine pretty well – her strengths and weaknesses, assets and deficiencies.
But, today’s meeting led to a breakthrough. I am beginning to love these yearly IEP meetings. The meeting was highly successful due to the knowledge, skills, and experience of my amazing husband who put to good use today nine years of educational and behavioral health expertise! As we discussed through the goals, accommodations, modifications, and services, I felt empowered that I was a full and equal member of the IEP team WITH the school personnel. And that fact is protected by law. This made it so much easier to challenge their thinking on reduction in services, and questioning the vagueness and limited scope of Jasmine’s goals for next year. Please don’t set my child up for mediocrity and “achievable” goals!
Todd has long said that IEPs are not about what is best for a kid, but what is appropriate to address their needs so they can learn and grow in all developmental areas. I am very proud of him for advocating so well for Jasmine today and keeping things in perspective. The 3-hour meeting paid off because Jasmine will be getting what she needs next year in 1st grade.
I’m a big fan of Kathie Snow and her website, Disability is Natural. For parents and professionals of children with disabilities, it is a wonderful resource of support, encouragement, and information. Something I had the privilege to hear her say at a conference held by the Down Syndrome Association of Roanoke was, “Keep this in mind: if you can’t change something, change how you feel about it, and to effect change in others, change yourself first. Always remember, attitude is everything!” IEP development doesn’t have to be scary or intimidating because, after all, it is about the child and their success.
Today’s IEP success leaves me with great anticipation for Joel’s arrival and advocating in the most appropriate ways I know how to develop an individualized – not standardized, typical, or “that’s the way we always do it” – education plan to meet his needs.