In the past, I have talked about the importance of parent participation in developing your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP); however, parent participation should not end on the day of the IEP meeting. When both the school personnel and the parents understand that the path to a successful IEP starts with ongoing communication and support from the home environment, everybody wins! I have seen resistance to this type of ongoing communication from both parents and school personnel for a variety of reasons. What’s important to keep in mind, is finding the appropriate method to educate a child with a disability. If it takes a village to raise a child, imagine what it takes to raise a child with a disability.
Often times, the IEP will script out how and when parents and school personnel will communicate. I find this method is mostly utilized in IEP’s where the team does not have very good ongoing communication and have not figured out how to work together. We have a much more informal approach to communication with my son’s IEP team. We didn’t get there overnight, but we have created relationships with the Teachers and Therapists at my son’s school. We do not ask for daily or even weekly updates, however, we do monitor all of his test results and homework to determine when we need to contact his teachers in order to find out what is going on in the classroom. We will also get calls from the General Education Teacher or Resource Specialist when they need our help. We received one such call last week from my son’s Resource Specialist.
Last week was the start of the California Standards Test (CST) and my son gets pulled out into a small group setting in the resource room to take the test. If you have read my blogs in the past, he has Auditory Processing Disorder which among other things affects his reading comprehension. When school work becomes difficult, his first reaction is to give up. In his mind you can’t fail if you don’t try. It took us years of educational therapy and resource to teach him the skills necessary to break down tasks into smaller components so he didn’t feel overwhelmed. Unfortunately, those feelings came back on the first day of CST testing.
Five minutes into the first test the Resource Teacher walked by his desk and noticed he had already answered ten questions on an exam that required him to read a 2 page essay prior to beginning. When she questioned him all he could say was, “It’s too hard, it’s too hard, I think I’m done now.” He had shut down and nothing the Resource Teacher said could get him back on track. She was able to get him to read the next section by sitting next to him, but he refused to go back and read the first section where he had guessed at the answers without reading the essay. When testing was completed for the day, the Resource Teacher called to solicit my help.
When my husband and I picked him up from School we told him that the Resource Teacher had called us. He looked shocked, but he begrudgingly said, “Is that because I bubbled in the answers on the test without reading it first?” So began a long conversation about the need to try. As we explained to him, the purpose of the test is to determine which areas he still needs help on. It doesn’t matter whether he does good or bad, only that we get a picture of his skills so that we can figure out how to help him in the future. We told him we can’t figure out where to help you if you don’t try on the test.
While this conversation might sound simple, it actually took us the rest of the day before he properly understood. His General Education Teacher also had a similar conversation with him the next morning prior to leaving to take the next part of the CST. That morning, he went in and tried his best and he also apologized to his Resource Teacher for not listening to her. So as you can see, the point of this example is that the entire IEP Team, including the Parents, needs to communicate and stay actively involved for the IEP to have any chance of being successful.
Update: August 26, 2011 We received my son's CST scores in the mail today and his scores went up 70 points in both English and Math for a total of 140 points. This is the first time he has ever scored this high. I guess our teamwork and school communication paid off.