Monday, May 21, 2012

Surviving The IEP

Guest Post By: LeLinda Faulk -Aspergers Mom of  her beautiful, brilliant son, who is going into the 3rd grade in a Houston, Texas public school. 

Edited by: Karen -Aspergers Mom

I’m just a mom of an Asperger’s kid, who survived an ARD.  Some states call them  I.E.P. (acronym for Individual Education Plan) meetings.  Here in the state of Texas, our goal planning meetings are called ARDs (acronym for Admission, Review and Dismissal).
ARD’s are SCARY!  This was my 3rd one so I knew what to expect. Preparation is everything!  It’s so important to know what works for your kid. The good thing about it is, you know your kid better than anyone else. I’m not an educator. I wouldn’t even comfortably call myself a kid person. I do love my son immensely and want him to have a fair chance at success.  I will give you some resources that I found helpful and I’ll even share some of my ideas for the IEP and BIP (Behavior Intervention Plan).  

The main thing I’ve noticed is the old saying is true; the squeaky wheel gets the grease. You have to make your voice heard and your presence known regularly.  It's important that the educators working with your child know that you plan on being a big part of your child's education process. 

If you’re brand new to ARD’s,  the first thing I recommend is that you at least chat with an advocate. There’s a chance they’ll be able to incorporate some things you didn’t even know about.  We used the ARC of Houston.  Our advocate did not recommend specific accommodations, but she was insistent that we get what we wanted and made sure all evaluations and testing were performed to ensure we could get the right accommodations.

Special Education laws can be tricky. I don’t know if they are designed more so to help or hinder the education process. Just know there are ways to get what you NEED accomplished. If the first person you call can’t help you, call someone else! Don’t give up!  If you do not push for your child his education...I can assure you no one else will.  Here are a few things you can do to prepare. 

  • You can begin looking for Advocates here --Autism Speaks Family Services Resource Guide Find your State - There’s an Advocacy bullet listed 
  • You can also try COPAA -Council of Parent Advocates and Attorneys
  • I would suggest becoming familiar with the Wrights  If you speak in technical/legal terms or can interpret it, it’s VERY useful. You'll kind of freak the committee out and they will believe you actually know what you're talking about.  They will be less likely to give you the old okie doke. 
  •  Your State Education Department's website will have resources, contacts and phone numbers listed.  Call and ask questions.
  • Your local School District's Special Education Department is also another resource.  No matter how intimidating ‘the district’ may seem call them and ask about services specific to your child’s needs. 
It turns out our district has an  Autism Specialist who’s a Special Education Coordinator for the district. Plead your case to them; ask them to be a part of the ARD. I have also invited our Special Ed. Coordinator to teacher meetings when the IEP wasn’t being followed. This is the person who can  also facilitate the training for your teachers. Make sure they know your kid is out there.  Before my contact she had never heard of my kid and she manages all Autism plans for children on the spectrum. There are also TOSA (teachers on special assignment) who specialize in training teachers to meet the needs of children on the spectrum. Had I not called we’ve have never been offered these services.

By the time the ARD is scheduled you should already have plenty of contact with your child’s teacher(s) and I’m betting the school administration. I’ve found it very beneficial to play nice as part of a team, even when I bitch moan and complain...I remind them we are a team.  I specialize in my child, and they specialize in education. Together we will get this done, and we need ALL involved to play our roles.

I learned by my second ARD meeting that no one was very forthcoming with suggestions or accommodations. It was a lot of, “What do you want us to do?”  This time around, I was determined to come up with my own ideas. Here's what I did:
  • I googled, researched and read. By the time it was all said and done I had printed over 25 articles and consolidated them into 5 pages of handwritten notes. 
  • I asked around to other parents and even had Andrea from My Aspergers send me the accommodations they had just put in place for her son.
  • There’s also a Facebook page called Autism Discussion Page GREAT INFO!  The moderator is able to break down what works and why. I have sent several of his articles to my school administration. They’ve really helped the principal ‘get it’.   
In our specific case our Aspie is in an advanced placement program called AIMS, the program is for Gifted and Talented students through 6th grade.  The main benefit of the AIMS program is the children are taught with other gifted students.  The classes move at a slightly faster pace allowing for various projects that general education students don’t do.  The AIMS class involves extra homework and class work that don’t coincide with my son's, “If I know it,  why do I have to keep practicing it?” mentality. Since we aren’t sure of placement moving forward, I requested both sets of teachers be trained on how do teach an Aspergers student over summer break. Our district Special Education Coordinator was present, so it was approved.

I also learned in the meeting there will be 2 possibly three other children on the spectrum mainstreaming next year. I asked to have the group of them clustered with a well-trained team to provide them like peers in a neurotypical setting with appropriate staff members in place to support.  I brought of comments that my son has made like “Kids at Social Thinking are normal like me” and “Why are people at school so weird, they always ____” it’s important for him to have peers he can relate too.

They agreed.

The moral of this story...ask and you will receive.  Know your rights....and be prepared.

Click Here: Part 2 "Surviving the IEP -Accommodations"