Springtime in Schools: Preparing for Individualized Education Plans
By: Courtney Wiersum
The ice is beginning to melt, and springtime is just around the corner. For those of us who either work in schools or have a child in school, this usually means the beginning of the busy season we know as spring IEP time. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this process, annual Individualized Education Plans (or IEPs) are usually completed in the spring for students receiving special education services. As we begin to embark on this busy time of year, it is important for parents and educators alike to reflect on the past year and the progress that the child/student has made, and look toward the future.
Parents of children with special needs sometimes feel that they are not an integral part of the IEP process. As you prepare for your child’s IEP, I would encourage you to do the following:
- Reflect in writing on the progress that your child has made over the past year.
- Write a list of your child’s current strengths and obstacles.
- Prioritize the obstacles your child faces, and write down ideas to overcome them.
- Write out where you would like to see your child 1-2 years, 4-5 years, and 8-10 year from now.
- Write down any goal or objective ideas that you would like to see your child’s school team work on with him or her in the next year.
- Ask your child if he or she would like to learn about something in particular during the next year of their education.
After thinking and writing about your child, it is a good idea to sit down with your child’s IEP team prior to the IEP to brief them on your thoughts, IEP ideas, and goals for the future. It is important to work together with school personnel in order to achieve the most success. Remember: The more we all work together, the greater the results we can achieve!
Educators of children with special needs should reflect on their students in much the same way as parents. As you prepare for each student’s IEP, I would encourage you to do the following:
- Review your progress and anecdotal notes from the past year.
- Write a list of strengths and obstacles that you see in the classroom environment.
- Brainstorm ideas on how to overcome the student’s obstacles.
- Make a plan for where you would like to see the student 1-2 years, 4-5 years, and 8-10 years from now.
- Send home parent questionnaires, and request parent input when beginning the IEP planning process.
- Set-up a team meeting to review progress, and receive input from parents and all professionals involved for next year.
- Consider typical developmental milestones when planning and writing IEP goals and objectives: Do you need to work on another developmental milestone before moving on to something else?
- Administer a questionnaire to each student regarding enjoyable activities and his or her learning preferences.
Once again, it is crucial for school personnel and parents to work together. By planning ahead and asking for parent input, the springtime IEP season can be more enjoyable and promising for the future!
For parents and professionals alike, the IEP season can be overwhelming. By planning ahead and thinking about your child or student’s IEP, it can become a more enjoyable and exciting experience for all. It is important to remember to work as a team, because as a team we can accomplish so much more than we can individually!
“Working together, ordinary people can perform extraordinary feats. They can lift things a little higher, a little farther, towards excellence.” ~Author Unknown