Being the parent of a special needs little one - be it from a learning disability, physical challenge, behavioral condition or other disorder - can be a challenge in and of itself. You must often find new and creative ways to perform routine tasks like going to the store or getting ready for school in order to accommodate your child's needs. Where school is concerned, you oftentimes must work with special education staff to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) to best help your child learn given his or her specific roadblocks.
You trust in the experts in the education system that your child is making progress toward meeting IEP goals, but how can you be sure? By understanding the basic components of an IEP, and how the term "progress" is measured, you can ensure that your child's needs are being met in a supportive, understanding way that accounts for the challenges your child faces.
Interpreting feedback from your child's school
You will likely be receiving feedback from the school regarding your child's IEP progress; after all, schools are required by the 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to give parents reports about how a child is coming along pursuant to an IEP. Just because you get reports, however, doesn't mean that you either understand what they are saying or that they are actually providing a true assessment of your child's development.
Without an understanding of how the school is defining "progress" towards an IEP, your child could actually be falling further and further behind grade levels or expected performance without you ever knowing. There are several factors that can help you better understand what is expected of your child, how they are to be measured according to the goals of their IEP, and how to work with the school system to better craft an IEP that best meets your child's unique needs.
The first factor: a comprehensive evaluation
It is vitally important that, before an IEP is drafted for a particular student, that an expert (either employed by the school system or independently hired by you) performs a comprehensive evaluation of that child's baseline academic strengths and weaknesses, as well as a realistic assessment of how far the child will likely go with assistance and guidance. Having an honest, reality-based understanding of the child's challenges, and opportunities for growth, will give the school and parents the ability to best support those goals.
Because of both the complexity of this information and its importance to your child's educational development, we will be discussing this topic in the upcoming posts as well.