We held my son Paul’s IEP today and I thought it might help other parents going through this annual special education ritual to read about it. Paul just finished his Sophomore (grade 10) year in High School here in the San Francisco Bay Area. An IEP or Individualized Education Program is a meeting and set of documents describing the interventions or accomodations which will support the unique educational needs of a particular disabled child. The IEP is essentially the record of what has happened during the prior year and what the school, teachers, parents, and child agree will help that child learn best within the school. (There are much more precise and complex ways to define an IEP, of course.) IEPs can be used in public or private schools. Paul attends public school.
Paul has had an IEP since about 2nd grade. When he was younger, the IEP focussed more on understanding and evaluating his disabilities and what services might help him. Now that Paul is almost 16, the IEP is more focussed on the resources and program needed to support Paul’s more-or-less understood educational, social, and cognitive challenges.
Once, when Paul was worried that his IEP accomodations were not fair and that taking advantage of them was like cheating, one of the school administrators explained to him that he had to work so much harder and longer hours than most students because of his disabilities, the accomodations were to level the playing field so that he could compete in the mainstream school. This made good sense to Paul.
This morning, after weeks of preliminary discussions, nine of us met for the IEP. As he has matured, Paul himself has been increasingly consulted during his IEPs and he spoke at length several times during this meeting. We all left an hour and a half later with a twenty-ish page stack of papers but a short list of accomodations and course work for Paul’s 2008-2009 (Junior) year in High School. Here is what we signed off on:
- Uses own laptop computer at school
- Access to school computer, printer access (while working at school)
- Extra time on exams and assignments, when pre-arranged with teacher
- Alternative setting for test taking, as needed (allowed same access
to test instructions and question answering as other students taking that test)
- Possible that test can be read aloud if needed
- Classroom aide in English and History, transitional aide support in Geometry
- Homework log prepared by classroom aide
- Classroom Aide’s Duties:
- Note taking assistance
- Collect papers distributed in class
- Facilitate turning in assignments
- Social diffusion (modeling)
- Completion of homework log
- Tentative 2008-2009 Course Work:
- U.S. History
- Physical Education
- Study Skills (2 periods)
This year (2007-2008), Paul took one more solid subject (Biology) along with Math, Art, English, History, and P.E. but he had only one Study Skills period. We all decided that since Paul recently passed his High School exit exam and has almost completed his required courses for graduation, the stress of a 4th solid wasn’t worth it. We will find out in August which teachers are assigned to these classes and how Paul’s schedule works out in detail.