Parents of children with disabilities transitioning from early intervention to preschool or entering kindergarten with a new diagnosis of developmental delays understandably have very high expectations for the Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) that describe the supports, services, adaptations and goals appropriate for their student.
There is great diversity in what is considered appropriate and how well IEPs are implemented even within school districts, and sometimes within a school. In some areas, IEPs are known as Individualized Education Programs, but the most important word in the phrase is Individualized.
Being in contact with parents whose children with a similar diagnosis seem to be thriving can be very helpful for families who are new to negotiating IEPs, school placements and support. It can be helpful to learn from what other parents consider mistakes as well as what they consider successful. Unfortunately, there may be significant differences in experiences from family to family, no matter how similar their children's level and type of disability may be.
A student with a useless IEP may be making progress because parents provide tutors or enrichment activities outside the school day. Another with what looks like a perfect IEP may be losing interest, losing skills, or communicating distress because no one who works with the student has had the time or interest in implementing the IEP.
Changes in school culture often reflect changes in staff, administrators, funding, or the neighborhood. Sometimes the personal perspectives of adults in charge are so greatly modified by experiences with a student with the same diagnosis but more extensive support needs that attitudes and expectations are altered toward every child who follows.
The IEP spectrum is well illustrated by the most positive and most negative experiences of parents and students working with school district IEP teams. School staff and administrators will also be affected by their own ordeals and pleasant surprises working with parents. Adversarial relationships with previous families can both wear down and wear out education professionals who have their own self interests as well as whole classrooms of other students needing their attention.
Students and families pass through schools; teachers and staff stay put and develop assumptions through experiences that may cause them to lower their expectations or to manipulate situations that are brand new for each student and parent. Some parents have unrealistic expectations of their children that inspire them to create the opportunities that the student needs to reach their full potential.
Browse at your public library, local bookstore, or online retailer for books like: The Complete IEP Guide: How to Advocate for Your Special Ed Child or The IEP from A to Z: How to Create Meaningful and Measurable Goals and Objectives
How To Offer Services That Special Needs Families Can Actually Use