Friday, September 6, 2013

Back to School IEP Tips and Ideas

A few weeks ago I promised that I would share some tips about how Bubby's IEP meeting went.

It wasn't quite an 'IEP' meeting. I guess it was just an informal meeting designed to update old staff, and inform new staff about Bubby's needs. It was not to change, or alter the IEP, so I suppose that is the only difference. The whole team was there, as well as as the coordinator of  our local educational coop's special ed dept as per my request.

First of all, it was a night, and day difference with the way the principal behaved with the Special ed. coordinator there. He still said a few things that were not in line with today's laws, and regulations, but all in all his obstinate, bully-ish demeanor changed to a subdued version of that demeanor. He barely concealed his contempt at having to use what he would consider nontraditional methods on his school, because he doesn't feel he should have to bend for any student, but rather if the student can't acclimate to his environment, then they should go to a different placement. But, since that is a violation of law I work my way around him. If you had not been up to date with Bubby's school situation here is my last entry about it.

First, here is the letter that I write every school year to help acquaint them with Bubby,. and his needs.


At the beginning of every year I always like to make up a little info sheet about Bubby to hand out to teachers, as well as a shorter version for you to tuck away in your sub folders to help quickly acquaint substitutes with Bubby.


Bubby is a bright, unique young man. He likes to play Minecraft, watch youtube, and is very active when he has the opportunity.  When he understands what he is supposed to do he is very efficient, and easily self-directs.  At home he has a number of chores that he does completely on his own without any direction, or reminders from anyone. He has a chart that he fills out when he is done, and seems motivated by keeping the routine the same.  He likes routine, and is always keen on following it, as long as he knows what is expected of him.  It is rare that I have to even remind him to do a chore, and he has never refused to complete a regular chore that is assigned to him.

I bring that part up, because I want it to be clear to all his new staff that will be working with him that if he is struggling with something it is not because he is trying to be difficult, or doesn't want to do what he is supposed to do. He has never been a discipline problem. Any refusal to comply with requests is due to any number of other things, from anxiety, to not understanding what he needs to do, to possibly not knowing how to get started.  He very much loves to have approval from adults, and his peers. The more chances he gets to be successful in class, and receive praise will help  offset the anxiety of feeling he may be unable to complete school work. He needs to be told what he is doing right, and encouraged, because he is not able to receive this sort of feedback in the same way as typical children.  He is very sensitive to negative comments, and tone. I know that there are many that may feel they should not have to coddle him in this sort of way, but I have to say that the autistic brain is wired differently than a neurotypical brain in the way it processes, and sorts input, as well as output.  If you would please give it a try I would be very appreciative, because if one of his first experiences with you is negative it will be very hard for him to break that association in the future. I very much want this to be a good year for everyone.

Bubby has a Behavior Plan in his IEP, as well as a communication notebook that goes to, and from school. I won't list too many issues here, as I think most should be covered in the BIP. I want to remind everyone that the BIP is something that is always evolving, and changing to meet Nathaniel's needs. All we can do is make guesses at why something is happening, and what might help. It is meant to be evaluated, and changed with relative frequency. I have been told that it is rare to get a good working plan going in the first few attempts. It takes quite a bit of tweaking, so please be sure to let me know of any concerns that you might be having, and what is working, too! I would really like to get a good idea of what his day was like, what happened, and what was involved, in which I have to say his para last year did an EXCELLENT job of doing in the communication book that goes back and forth from home to school daily. She really left a good description of his day without any of her own judgments about his behavior, and what it might mean. She really kept if factual, and to the point. This information helps the behavior specialist, the autism specialist and the rest of the team identify what is happening, possible reasons why, and postulate what we can do to meet everyone's needs better. 

Please, let me know if you have any questions. I can be reached at (XXX) XXX-XXXX or my email is:


Prior to the meeting I got all of my documents in order. I keep them all in a huge 3 ring binder that has every IEP, test, and doctor report Bubby has ever had in chronological order from oldest to the newest in the front.

I pulled out his latest IEP, and BIP, and read it carefully. I bought a legal pad (this way you can lean back from the table, and write without nosy people reading your notes during the meeting) and went through each part that seemed incomplete, or didn't make sense. Basically, an IEP should always pass the stranger test. This means that if your child suddenly got transferred to another school, or a new staff member was hired they new staff would be able to read, follow, and fully understand what the IEP, and BIP says. It is a legal document, and nothing should be left to guessing, or implications.

Some examples of the questions that I had are:

In Bubby's behavior plan one of the adult coping strategies for behavior escalation was for staff to present Bubby with a script or cue card. What does this mean exactly? Who will make those? 

It says in that assignments will be shortened. Who is responsible for shortening them? How will they determine which ones to shorten, and how much? Will it be by teacher discretion, and if so how much training will the teacher have in positive behavior plans, and autism?  Can we have set measurement to follow? (which would be called a rubric, but that word set off fireworks at the last meeting, so I didn't use it)

If assignments are to be done at school only, as per the BIP, then when in his school day will he get homework, and unfinished work done? How will this be made clear to him, as to reduce his anxiety about this topic?

BIP says that Bubby will bring home study materials to show me. How long will this happen, and what will this include, as we all might have different ideas of what 'study materials' mean'?

BIP says that Bubby will have a quiet place to go if he reaches a level 4, and can't calm down. Where specifically will that place be located?

In the IEP, where it says supplement aides, and services, I would like to see 'autism support, and training via the district's autism specialist for school personnel' be included in this.

I would like to see "have access to" be removed, and something more measurable to be put in place under "Related Services" for SLP consult.  It's important that SLP services/knowledge flow from the speech room to all areas of education, so that all staff are on the same page. Consult should be timed, and measured, not just something that may be done.

Those were just some of the questions I had written down beforehand. If I had not written them down, I would have never remembered what I wanted to say. It's important to write things down, and stick with it, because I know we often struggle with feeling heard at these meetings. If you are prepared, and have pertinent questions they have to address them.

All of my questions were addressed, and most in my favor. There were a couple that weren't, but the staff was instructed to collect data on the situation to revisit in December during the next meeting.  That way we can see if, and what might need changed, so it wasn't just a 'we don't do that here' speech.  Most meetings are not near as hostile as the one I had previously. Usually, if a parent is asking the right questions, and being assertive (not aggressive, or emotional) the school will address things properly.

I hope this helps any of you put there struggling along at meeting, as I once was when my boys were younger. If you have specific topics you'd like me to cover, or questions please just ask.

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