Friday, October 7, 2011

31 for 21: Braska’s 2011-2012 IEP, part 1

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IEPs can be scary.  Some people dread them.  Some people just ignore them.  (I’ve been shocked at the stories I’ve heard at our school and in our area about parents who don’t even attend, or who just sit and listen and say, “Whatever” in a non-caring way.) 

I don’t dread them or ignore them.  I view them as an important part of the process of educating Braska and getting the best services for her that we can.

There are a lot of parts of the IEP, and this isn’t really meant to be a technical lesson on that process.  Though if you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask… I may just refer you to pros in your area. There are great training organizations out there who can equip you very well.  Around here that’s MPACT, and I’ve been to several of their workshops.

But feel free to chime in with experiences or tips or your favorite parts of the process!

The first part of the meeting is always the most important part: FOOD!  I never show up to an IEP meeting of any kind without some kind of goodies.  If in a hurry, it could be M&Ms or trail mix, but I generally bake, since my meetings are usually at 9am.  I’ve done coffee cake, donuts, cinnamon rolls, pumpkin bread, and others.  Sometimes I’ve even taken little pairs of wrapped cookies so they can take and have after lunch, too.  Some meetings I’ve taken drinks, others I’ve skipped that part.

This time, with sick tots the days leading up to the meeting, I went the easy route… Great Harvest Bread Company and QT.  I picked up a couple kinds of fall breads, Cranberry Almond and Cinnamon Chip, as well as some blueberry cream cheese scones.  Then I hit QT on the way and got 4 large cappuccinos in different flavors, with extra cups so we could share them.  These are always a hit! 

All in all, super easy, not expensive, and the impact is huge.  These team members do a lot of IEP meetings, they work with kids all day, and to sit in a meeting with something yummy to nibble on and a pick-me-up drink is a treat to them.  They are always excited, even though my team knows there will be goodies before they get there.  Julie and I have developed a bit of a reputation at our school.  And we’re trying to teach the other parents we come in contact with how big a difference this can make to the comfortable feeling in the room.  It puts everyone at ease and makes the whole process less business and more conversation, which tends to benefit all involved.

Once the food is all arranged and people are settled in, we generally start with the Present Level element.  This just states where Braska is currently in a variety of categories.  I like that they start with her strengths, then talk about her areas of weakness (none of which are a surprise, of course) and then we go over each of her therapy areas to talk about her current abilities.

Some snippets from Braska’s Present Level:
Strengths
~Letter and number recognition.
~Sight word identification
~Happy and enjoys being around peers and teachers
~Greets adults by name
~Easily adapts to changes in her day

Weaknesses
~Difficulty in visual motor interferes with task completion and fine motor skill development.
~Delays in sensory processing, motor planning, and self-help skills interfere with Nebraska’s feeding and drinking tasks during snack time.
~Decreased receptive language skills affect her ability to follow directions with 2 or more components.

I’ll continue with more of the Present Level next…

What’s your IEP experience? Good? Bad? Dreading the next one? Why?

7 comments:

  1. I'm going to agree to disagree with you on this one. The whole "you must bring food to the IEP" thing really rubs me the wrong way.

    I'll write my own post on it later. but for now...I'd tell the other parents that it's an option.

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  2. Cate: That's ok. I can deal with the fact you might disagree.

    For me, I can only speak to the experiences I've had, and the difference it has made in how respected and appreciated my team feels. That's important to me, so I do what I can to keep that alive.

    I'm no professional, to be sure. Just a parent sharing what's worked for us and others we know of. I'll look forward to reading your perspective on it, as always!

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  3. Yes I am Braska's Grandma, but give me a break.

    "Decreased receptive language skills affect her ability to follow directions with 2 or more components."

    I also have have trouble following directions with 2 or more components. Maybe she just has my genes.

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  4. Grandma C: She might have just one or two. Or three. But they're all the good kind, I'm sure.

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  5. We've only had one formal IEP so far (excluding the EIs & the slew of 'lead up' mtngs) and I thought about the food thing but... I didn't. Partially because the timing was bad & my culinary skills are shady. I might later when I know everyone a little better & I feel closer to them but the first time I just wanted it to be professional (maybe I was trying not to be emotional about it either). Food for thought! (badda-bum)

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  6. Further thought - not that bringing food is UNprofessional, but I'll admit that there was a little part of me that didn't want to have bribe them or ingratiate myself, just to get a "good" IEP. But I also totally buy into the 'breaking bread' theory - happy mtngs at work require treats. I'll be interested to see what Cate has to say.

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  7. krlr--I hear ya...I personally view it as *appreciating* them rather than *ingratiating* myself to them.

    To elaborate a tad more...It is more of a "breaking bread" idea, I think, like you said. Being on the same team, sharing together for a common goal. I have NO trouble being firm about what I think is best, if need be. I don't feel that I lose any of the credibility or professionalism, so to speak, by coming in all smiles and hands full of goodies. I will get a good IEP either way...no doubt about it. I won't accept less, but I can do it with a big thank you on the table. :o)

    Anything that helps the people who are most involved in my daughter's education to feel comfortable and appreciated is valuable to me.

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