Tag Archives: IEP

Preventable IEP Anxiety

7 May

I don’t have any IEP’s to write this year, which might be the best and only good thing about being underemployed.  Well…actually I do have one IEP to write; my son’s.

And this year it has been enough of a headache to make up for not having 10 others to write and schedule.  This one has been rescheduled at least 3 times.  Right before the original IEP date, I submitted a letter of parent concern that sort of threw his case manager into a mild panic.  I admit, that this sort of violated about half of my own rules for avoiding the long and ugly IEP meetings.  So I was not too concerned about delaying the meeting a week to enable people to get their legs back under them, and to address my concerns in a thoughtful manner.  But then another delay ensued and finally she wanted to delay until after the CRCT results.  The CRCT, for those who don’t know, is Georgia’s Criterion Referenced Competency Test, which is the state-wide high stakes test.  I decided to go along with this, but each and every time and during each and every communication I asked for exactly the same thing: a draft of the IEP.

And now I am absolutely convinced that failing to receive such a draft in a timely manner is the single greatest cause of preventable stress during IEP season.  This is why it is such a critical part of my aforementioned rules.  Procrastination and surprises do not serve anyone well.  It does not serve teachers well, because they are deciding and writing in a hurry.  It does not serve parents well, because their anxiety mostly comes from not knowing and the fear of the district ambushing them.  It does not serve the system well, because when parents feel ambushed, they tend to become contentious and litigious.  And yet, I witness this time after time after time, year after year after year, the same exact thing.  The worst was when I was the high school representative at a middle school IEP meeting and we were already an hour behind.  We were all in the meeting room, waiting for the case manager. When I asked the SLP where she was, I got an eye roll “She’s upstairs, writing the IEP draft.”

If you are a teacher with an IEP tomorrow morning and have not completed the draft yet, you should consider another career.  You are probably already on some sort of blood pressure medication.  Being a special education teacher is stressful. But this is one source of stress in your life that you can minimize by simply moving your own deadlines up a week.  I used to be like you.  I would wait and then scramble to get my drafts done, and then worried and ended up with all sorts of mistakes as I hurried and rushed.  I finally had enough and began writing my drafts further ahead of the actual meeting dates and got them to parents over a week in advance.  And guess what happened to that stress?  It disappeared.  And here is why:

Being a parent of a child in special education also consists of a stress, only this is one that rarely ever sleeps.  Although I knew this first-hand, it took me time to translate that into a practice that actually minimized worry for the parents as well as myself.  Having a draft in their hands a week in advance allowed the parents to think and consider what we were doing.  And it instilled a sense of trust. You have no idea how precious that is, until you realize that you have attained it universally and fully.  And it shortened my meetings by almost hour.  Parents could talk about what THEY wanted, because we had agreed on most things ahead of time.  Most of the heat fell on the itinerant providers who failed to submit their reports and recommendations in advance.  They were also procrastinators.

Having a draft written also diminished the effects of having to reschedule meetings.  I HATED rescheduling, but on the few occasions where it was absolutely necessary, it did not impact me significantly because I already had the draft written and distributed to the parent.  I used any extra time to talk to the parent some more, making sure everything was okay and it was just the way they wanted it.

It took some SERIOUS arm twisting to get an advanced draft this year, even though it should have been completed 2 months ago.  And what I got was something that was barely written at all, with no mastery or goals and objectives.  This means that this is going to be a very long and drawn-out meeting because we have to hammer out goals and objectives.  Fortunately I had already done some work on a few that I wanted, but I’m seeing some other concerns that have come up that will have to be addressed.

I’m going to challenge all special education teachers to set a goal to get their IEP drafts completed 5 days in advance of the meeting and get them in the hands of the parents at least 3 days ahead of time.  Of course it is a little late for most of you this year, but if you take the 5 day challenge I guarantee you will lower your own stress as well as the stress level of the parents.

Catching up

17 May

I’m trying to catch up on a lot of things this weekend.  One of them is rest, as I am currently on the downhill slide of a death march, which involves finishing up all the junk teachers have to do to finish a school year.  We have a ton of last minute IEPs, mostly by teachers who procrastinated too long and are so far behind.  Next week is a 6 day work week for high school teachers as we have graduation on Saturday that we all have to work at.

I’m in the process of getting over a cold, which is largely caused by stress.  I’ve been getting home wellinto the evening every night because of the massive amount of paperwork.  I had one parent in particular who really went after me and I may blog more about that later as it demonstrated how to get what you want while you alienate a teacher who wqs otherwise sympathetic to the cause.  Basically participate in a full-scale ambush.  I’m glad when kids have parents that are good advocates and generally am happy to work with them.  But when an adversarial relationship is insisted upon which does no good except guarantee that I won’t get to see my own kids, then we might have some difficulties.

I’m also working on video, audio and pictures for Covington’s 4th annual Autism Walk!  I got some really good footage, not to mention a nice t-shirt!

Good stuff ahead!

D.

IEP Process: Summary of Performance

12 May

My IEP series has yet to include this as this is my very first crack at this abomination. And as a teacher, it is truly an abomination, compared to the good ‘ole days when all you had to do at the very last meeting was look at goal mastery, write some minutes, pat the child on the head and say “C-YA!” In those days, dismissing a child from school and special education was as easy as gravity.

Not so, anymore. From a 1 page breezy narrative, it is now a 5 page millstone.  You can look at it/download it here.  Ours looks slightly different, but it is just as painful.

The reauthorization of 2004 requires this document in order to facilitate the child’s post-secondary transition and provide some sort of seamlessness with vocational rehab agencies. I have no idea if this is true or not for most students, but I don’t see the usefulness for any of my students. Let’s go through this thing together, shall we? I’m filling this out for the student I have identified in past entries as Spaz who is leaving after over 20 years in the system. I’ve had him for 7 of those years, so for about a third of his life. This should be easy, given our history, right?

Checking off assessments used…

This looks easy enough…check, check, check…

And provide copies of the assessment reports.

Crap. The boy has a folder that takes up an entire file drawer. A lot of the medical stuff is buried very deeply. This is going to be painful, made even moreso by the fact that the copier is clear across the school. Perhaps the Central Eligibility Report will suffice for all of this. Yeah, let them look up all the stuff!

Students desired postsecondary goals. This should take into consideration education, employment and community access.

Spaz is pretty darn sick of school and seems tired of everything else for that matter. He’s tired of going into the community, which he used to love more than anything else. But we need to put something down so I can say that he will pursue a placement in a day-hab/sheltered workshop setting. Also, because of the severity of his disability, paid employment is not a goal.

That last statement is a tough one, but it’s the truth. Even as a greeter at Wal-Mart, his spitting on people is not exactly going to earn him a big paycheck. He bites any materials he works with, and his hands are all in his mouth. At least he’s not biting people, and that’s progress.

Spaz will live with his family as long as possible but group home, respite and other living alternatives will be pursued. And I think those alternatives will be pursued diligently as his mother has endured a lot of hardship over the years with Spaz. I daresay, more hardship than most because Spaz has some extensive needs and some extreme behaviors which will try and test the patience of the best of people at their best. She’s had to endure being with him, who has only needed 10 hours of sleep per week, and his waking hours seem to be spent bent on destruction. He breaks things, chews on things, picks at things and generally raises havoc. Curtains, window blinds, windows, walls, electrical outlets, appliances, fixtures…nothing is immune once he fixes upon it without constant supervision. And try keeping your temper on less than 2 hours of sleep every single night.

Moving on…

Academic area: Reading

Well, if I had to pick his brightest spot, this might be it. Spaz can read a few sight words (Walk, don’t walk, go, in, out) but he’s not reading extensively beyond the pre-k level. His functioning according to an adaptive behavior questionnaire is less than a 2 year-old level. He might read at a 3 or 4 year-old level. They want accommodations and assistive technology, but there’s not a lot to offer as far as his reading.

Math

He can almost count to 15, and does so failry clearly with his own voice. Otherwise he uses an AAC device with supervision. Again, he is functioning at a 3-4 year-old level, tops.

Written Expression

Spaz has been working on writing his name for several years and can almost write “Spaz” legibly, but he does bite the pencil, pen and/or paper that he is writing on/with. Which means that writing is not very functional at all for him as he will destroy/eat whatever he is writing on/with. This includes a computer mouse or keyboard.

Learning Skills (Class participation, Note taking, Keyboarding, Organization, Test taking, Study skills)

He participated in class using his AAC device, answering orally or by pointing to people and pictures.

In every one of these areas, they want to no the accommodations, the date and an accommodations rationale. The rationale is the same every time for Spaz: He has a severe intellectual disability and his skills are negligible to nonexistent! That’s the assessment report’s words, not mine. But they have the virtue of being true. And depressing.

Social Skills and Behavior

This area is even more depressing, as he has a laundry list of all sorts of behaviors that have came, went, and returned again over the years. Why on earth am I required to fill this out? How can a parent read this, if it is a truly honest account, and NOT be reduced to tears?

Comunication

Independent Living

Environmental Access

Self Determination/Self Advocacy Skills

Career/Vocational

Medical/Family Concerns

On and on and on and on this thing goes! And that is only page 3. The accommodation for my student is basically the same: 1:1 adult assistance pretty much every time, and the rationale is that Spaz has a severe intellectual disability, and is functioning at less than a 2 year-old level. What else do you want me to say?

And then I get to summarize all of this to recommend postsecondary outcomes, which for him will require 1:1 supervision and support at all times. As a teacher, this is totally demoralizing. Yeah, I know he’s got a severe disability, but the outcome of 7 years of instruction should have come to more than this. No wonder most teachers quit before they see the results of all their work. It’s too depressing to contemplate.

The next section is even more depressing as if that were possible. It’s the student perspective. I’m somehow supposed to interview Spaz and ask him:

How does your disability affect your schoolwork and school activities? (Think about grades, relationships, assignments, tests, communication, extra-curricular activities.):

In the past, what supports have been tried by teachers to assist you in being successful in school?:

Which of these accommodations and supports worked best for you? Why did they work?:

D. What strengths should others know about you as you begin college or work?:

E.What has been most difficult for you in school?

As if Spaz is going to answer any of these!

What a load of rubbish.

And then we’re supposed to provide a list of contact information for service providers that parents may contact. And I know for a fact that our county has precious few, if any of these numbers. In fact, they had training material for filling out the forms and they used people at the board office as examples for each of those contacts for High School Team, Health and Family Services, Employment Agency, Community Agency, Institute of Higher Education as well as other agencies. I’ll be writing them to see if I can use their info! As it is, I know of no such database in the county, much less the county office of such agencies.  It’s as if they all have some sort of stealth technology to keep people from being informed.  I am NOT looking forward to going through this mess as a parent.  I also appreciate the parents who are doing it right now and blazing the trail for the rest of us.

This thing is painful to the max, emotionally as well as in the sheer scope of all the stuff they want. It’s the caseworker who has to fill all this horse manure out and it really stinks.

Thank you for listening, even if it was not as helpful as other entries about IEPs.  Maybe I’ll come up with a better informed follow-up or perhaps some of you can help me out

D.

Up to my neck in IEPs

1 May

IEP season started ’round these parts in February, but really it has never ended. As soon as school started, addendums were being written to adjust services and schedules from those written just months earlier, while transfer students were being put through the process from scratch.

I’m visiting several middle schools this week, representing the high school for 8th graders transferring into the high school next year and without exception, I haven’t seen a familiar face yet. Every one of these teachers are new and I’m seeing brand new folks lead the IEP process. In many instances the LEA, the graduation coach and the regular ed teacher are also brand new. What this means is that a lot of parents are the most experienced people in the room when it comes not only to their child but to IEPs in general. These new teachers all use the same word to describe their experience with writing and delivering these IEPs:

Overwhelming.

In addition to attending and LEAing meetings for other teachers at this school and attending several others, I’m busy writing IEPs for my own students, which is no small job hence my lack of posting around here. It is THE most stressful and busy time of the year for special education teachers around the country. My blog gets a tidal wave of hits as my IEP series pops up on other blogs, search engines and discussion groups. I hope y’all find it helpful.

This business has put a crimp in my TeacherTube video postings but I have new footage that will be edited and posted at some point. I hope to shoot some more in a couple of weeks as the paperwork craziness slacks off a bit. I hope it slacks off a bit.

I do have some good ideas, courtesy of those new teachers that I talk to. Lesson plans, data sheets and data collection are towards the top of the list. I’m also looking forward to taking some classes this summer or maybe attending a conference or two and blogging those. I’d also like to get my online course up and running at least for our own county. I’ll be attending a class in a week that wraps up my Moodle training.

To all of you new teachers looking for resources, ideas and help; hang in there. Experience has taught me (if nothing else) is that every year it is crazy towards the end, and every year I am exhausted at the end and every year I some how make it through the experience. Just take it a day at a time, one step at a time and things will work out. Things will get crazy and sometimes very, very ugly. But you’ll make it if you’ve made it this far. Sometimes you just have to laugh to keep from crying.

D.

A Call For Help Podcast

10 Apr

A teacher recently posted a comment about accomodations asking for some help and support, so I created this podcast in order to answer her question.

Answering a Call for Help

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