By Kodey Toney
Stick To Your Guns
The end of the school year is quickly approaching, and with that IEP season is upon us. If you are not looking forward to your Individualized Education Program I hope to give some quick facts to help you through.
I’ve written some columns in the past with more in-depth advice on dealing with IEPs (see my blog at http://pervasiveparenting.blogspot.com/). This will be just a quick refresher course. I had some help with this one from my wife, Jennifer.
The number one thing to do is have a plan. I know this sounds obvious, but as Jennifer pointed out to me, it’s kind of like car shopping. You go in with a price that you want to pay, and stick with it. There is going to be some negotiation, possibly, but you have to know what you want and be firm with that. For example; if you want your child to have modified testing times then you need to make that clear, and make sure that they don’t talk you out of it. When you walk out of the meeting make sure it’s written in the IEP.
Nobody knows your child better than you. You spend more time with them than even the teacher and students. You have figured out what makes your child tick. Let them know why you want it, and then don’t back down.
Don’t forget it’s a group effort though. They call it a team for a reason. You have to work together to get what is best for your child. Don’t forget that this is why you are ultimately there. Don’t let pride, stubbornness, or vindication get in the way.
Remember the golden rule. You wouldn’t want anyone else questioning your abilities to be a parent, don’t question their ability to teach. I’ve found that if you discuss why you want something, and talk to the team in a civilized manner you will get more out of the meeting. The “more flies with honey” approach.
Know the laws. I know this one is difficult, but if you don’t know what you can and can’t have then you will never know what to ask for. There are a couple places to find this information. Wrightslaw.com is a great site to help with many of the legal issues you will come across. They have advice and resources to assist with finding the laws that govern special education. The following web address formt he Oklahoma Department of Education (http://ok.gov/sde/parent-and-family-resource-page) will help with resources for Oklahoma residents in coping with special education. The last place I will mention is the Oklahoma Disabilities Law Center (http://oklahomadisabilitylaw.org/). This group can help with all kinds of disability rights. Research each site if you have any questions, and don’t hesitate to contact them if you don’t find the answer online.
Don’t sign if you aren’t satisfied. You never have to sign the IEP until you have everything that you want included inside. If the wording is not right, don’t sign. If it’s not exactly the way you wanted it, don’t sign. One thing to be cautious of is that they haven’t written something inside. If they say, “We’ll add that in later when we type it up,” don’t sign. I’m not trying to say that the educators are trying to sneak out of providing a service. What happens is that these people are human. They are very busy, and you are one of many on their case load. If they don’t write it down in the IEP right then, it may be a day or two before they actually type this up for their file. At that time they could have, and probably have, forgotten all that was supposed to be added. Ask for it to be written in now and typed in later. If it’s not, don’t sign.
Remember though, if you don’t sign they don’t have to provide services.
The last thing I’m going to say is, don’t take no for an answer. I know this seems harsh, but if they say, “We don’t have the funds,” they have to find them; or at least give it a good shot. If it is something reasonable, and necessary for your child’s education they have to provide it as long as it is feasible.
If you have any questions about IEPs and what you may or may not be able to get for your child please feel free to contact me. If I don’t know the answer I will find someone who does.
Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I’m just a father who is trying to learn as much about Autism as I can to help my child. I hope that you all can learn from me, and I from you. I ask anyone who has questions or comments about something I have written, or autism, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will try to answer questions as I have time, and if I find it interesting enough I may touch on it in my column. You can also find all columns archived at blogspot.com.