Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
I have attended dozens of Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings since Nicholas was first diagnosed in 1998 and when Matthew received his diagnosis in early 1999. The very first IEP meeting I had for each child was very different. Both boys accompanied me to Nicholas’s meeting, my first ever IEP meeting.
This was at a school I was not familiar with in a large room where other families were also meeting. It was a whirl wind of activity with Nicholas being assessed through observation and parent interview. This is where he got the official diagnosis of autism and started the process of obtaining services and getting the referral into the Regional Center System within the State of California.
Prior to the IEP meeting I had spoken over the telephone with the Psychologist and discussed issues with Nicholas. I brought the speech evaluation we had through an Insurance referral. An appointment had already been scheduled with a Neurologist, which resulted from the speech evaluation as another referral.
Back in 1999 the assessment reports and IEP documents were all done in a carbonated format. That has long since been replaced with computer generated documents. The assessment listed the background data for Nicholas along with a summary of his health history.
The actual IEP documents covered dates, meeting information, pupil-parent information, present level of performance, eligibility, annual goals and short term objectives, vocational education/physical education, extended school year (ESY), provision for transition to regular class program, recommendation for instructional setting and signatures.
Nicholas was placed in the Preschool Special Day Class with mainstreaming for mealtime, assemblies and other related activities. His goals consisted of will be toilet conditioned, will attend to given task for 5-8 minutes, increase expressive language skills, will group objects into 2-3 categories. He was to have Physical Education with special day class teacher and eligible for extended school year.
The short term goals broke down the tasks into fewer minutes and included pointing to objects, will indicate the need to use the restroom and will name 25 common objects.
I was informed of an elementary school that had a good preschool program where the teacher was experienced with Autism. I signed the document agreeing to the placement and goals and headed home. The next day we drove to the school and looked around the neighborhood to find a place to move within close proximity. The IEP had been on June 17, 1998 with school starting in the Fall, so we had to move quickly and get settled before that time.
We have still lived in the same house around the corner that we moved into on August 8, 1998. The preschool Special Day Class had two sessions so I registered Nicholas for the afternoon class. This was a two-year program, so the following year Matthew was in the morning class with Nicholas in the afternoon class.
Matthew's IEP Meeting was held at the elementary school he would be attending that Nicholas was already attending. Since Matthew was always with me when I picked up Nicholas the Special Day Class teacher was very familiar with him. Once Nicholas was diagnosed with autism the Regional Center added Matthew as a consumer since he was considered "at risk" for autism due to having a sibling and he had been seen by the Psychologist and given the diagnosis of ADHD and it seemed by the test results it was only a matter of time before autism would surface.
Seven months later while Matthew was attending an Early Intervention Program at California State University the diagnosis was official. Nicholas's teacher had indicated to me that she did not think Matthew would fit into the Special Day Class. I encouraged her to go observe Matthew at his Early Intervention Program. The School District conducted the assessment for Occupational Therapy at the Early Intervention Program.
In May of 1999 the District personnel arrived at my house for the Preschool Assessment. On June 1, 1999 the IEP Meeting for Matthew was held in a more formal setting, with the therapists, teacher, school and district personnel along with the Regional Center Coordinator. There were some discrepancies with the assessment for Occupational Therapy (OT) and that was corrected.
The goals for Matthew were more detailed than the first IEP Meeting attended for Nicholas, which makes sense since Matthew had been in the system and received services with assessments current. I wish I could read this IEP but the handwriting is hard to decipher in the yellow carbonated copy.
In retrospect I was more interested in the services through speech and occupational therapy than the actual goals listed. The same goals were in Matthew's IEP for awhile since he has not mastered all of them over the years.
Circle of Inclusion is a site for parents of young children that has a wealth of resources.
IEP_Guide Yahoo group
Attending Your First IEP Meeting