By Leslie Lindsay
You may have just gotten your kids settled in school, and already you are beginning to think about the dreaded IEP. Is it up to date? Is is “good-enough?” Is it helping your child tackle the things she or he really needs to tackle? Are the teachers reading it? Hummm…I feel your pain. Here are some ideas to get you back into IEPland….
Remember, an IEP is a legally binding contract between the school and your family. It lays out:
- What your child’s qualifying disability is (in this case, a speech-language disorder called Childhood Apraxia of Speech, though there may be other diagnoses you child is also struggling with).
- Your child’s present level of functioning (this is where assessment results are reported—are her receptive language skills at the level of a six-year- old, while her expressive language skills are at the level of a four-year- old?)
- What goals the IEP team thinks she should work on, over and above what is covered in the regular school curriculum (does she need specific goals related to expanding the length of her sentences? related to being able to respond to another child’s greetings? Does she need goals related to bringing her reading skills up to grade level?)
- What special services (“related services”) your child needs to help her reach those goals and make progress in the general education curriculum (speech therapy, occupational therapy, social skills group, special education instruction).
- What accommodations and modifications your child needs to access the general education curriculum.
- Where your child should receive the instruction and therapy she needs (should she receive all his instruction and therapy in the classroom? leave the classroom for 30 minutes a week for speech therapy?)
- How the school will monitor your child’s progress and report that progress to you.
- Who will provide your child’s speech therapy. You may assume it’s the school speech-language pathologist (SLP), but that may not always be the case. Look at your IEP very closely. If it reads that speech services should be provided by the SLP, then that is a “good thing” (legally correct and legitimate). But, if your child’s IEP says speech language services will be provided by “SLP/Staff,” “SPED staff,” “special education staff,” or a “speech language assistant,” then your child may receive speech therapy from an untrained, unlicensed individual, including substitutes, aides and paraprofessional, or any staff member willing to do speech therapy. They are not licensed by your state Department of Education, nor are they accredited by the American Speech & Language Hearing Association (ASHA). Make sure your child’s IEP reads that speech therapy will be provided by an SLP
Note that the school is not required to develop an IEP that will “cure” your child’s apraxia as quickly as possible, or provide everything you think would help her reach her potential. The school is only required to provide services to allow your child to “access the curriculum” and not to perfect his or her speech.
Whoa . . . what does this mean, exactly? It means that schools want our kids with CAS to be able to participate in classroom activities and to be intelligible. And if your child has another disability in addition to apraxia, the IEP will address how your child can “access the curriculum” and participate in classroom activities despite that disability—but not necessarily to “fix” every single difficulty your child has.
(Image source: zazzle.com)
You will be able to propose the goals that will help your child “access the curriculum” and participate in classroom activities. A possible preschool setting goal may be:
- Connor will use a variety of means to request items and actions within the classroom (e.g., signs, single words, two-word phrases, pictures, and gestures) 80% of the time, which will be evidenced in quarterly data charting by teacher observation.
Another might be:
- Angela will verbally approximate the words for common objects within the classroom setting in the following categories: food, classroom items, toys, and actions without a model with 80% accuracy. This will be measured by teacher observation and charted quarterly.
(image source http://health.pppst.com/IEP.html 9.10.12)
You will also get to discuss and agree upon the “least restrictive environment (LRE) for your child. This means the classroom setting where she will have the maximum contact with typically developing children while still being able to meet her individual goals. For most children with CAS in kindergarten and above, the LRE will be the regular education classroom in the neighborhood school. For children with additional disabilities such as learning disabilities, Down syndrome, or autism, the LRE may be a combination of the regular classroom plus time spent in a resource room to receive extra help in some academic areas.
Every year, you will be expected to attend a new IEP meeting to discuss your child’s progress and re-discuss all the issues above, setting new goals, rehashing the LRE, determining what related services and accommodations and modifications are needed. You can also request an IEP meeting at any time you think one is needed.
[above is an excerpt from SPEAKING OF APRAXIA, Woodbine House, 2012. Copyright, Leslie Lindsay. If you like what you see here, why not order the book?!]
For more information on IEP’s, please see:
- The Complete Guide to Special Education: Expert Advice on Evaluations, IEPs, and Helping Kids Succeed (Jossey-Bass, 2010) by Linda Wilmshurst, Ph.D. and Alan W. Brue, Ph.D.
- The Complete IEP Guide, 7th edition (2011) by Lawrence Siegal is a great source for explaining the intricacies of IEPs in a clear, concise book designed for parents by Nolo, a publisher known for its series of legal guides. It also includes sample documents and pull-out forms. (image source, Nolo.com 9.10.12)
- WrightsLaw book and website is terrific! http://www.wrightslaw.com/