IEPs - not just a list of what your kid can't do
So often, I meet parents at IEP meetings who want to hustle through the document, make the meeting end, or just get some time to discuss what's on their minds about their kid at that moment. IEPs, for some, have come to symbolize everything that a child can't do, a thing in a file documenting all the places she is not at the same place other kids her age are. But I view an IEP as so much more; it's a powerful tool that can empower students to be successful in the individualized ways that work for them.
Is your school system telling you an iPad or DynaVox can't be written into your child's IEP because they can't name specific brands or tools as supplemental aids and services? They're right, but they can and should describe the tool that gives your child a voice and with which he accesses his education. Use an iPad with Assistive Express? Have them list it in your child's supplemental aids and services as a touch screen tablet with internet connectivity and software with word prediction and voice output. Need something that supports LAMP? Ask for a dynamic display device with voice output and software that provides a consistent motor pattern for words. The same holds true for reading or math interventions that are working to meet your child's documented needs. Can't name it? Describe it. And, for the record, there is one place a school system should be documenting specific tools or interventions - your child's present levels of performance should describe exactly which device or intervention your child is using and what kind of progress she's making with them.
Use your child's "statement of impact" as more than just a list of where your child needs assistance and goals. Use it to describe what your child needs to be successful. Does your child need one-to-one assistance for physical needs or to access communication successfully? Ask for that adult to be documented and justified here. List everything that adult will do: support academic needs; facilitate set-up of assistive technology; aid in manipulation of papers, tools, books, and other school supplies; assist in behavior support; help with clothing management when using the bathroom or changing for participation in PE. Does your child use assistive typing or have complex communication needs that require not just any aide but one trained in his specific AAC system? Ask that the statement reflects that his unique needs require staff to be knowledgeable in best practices for his communication method or in problem solving the assistive technology and ensuring an adequate backups for when devices fail.
Make that IEP work for your child! Document what works, and hold your school system accountable.