“Most kids act one way at home and to some degree, another way at school” (Claxton, 2018, p. 25).
This quote may come as a given to some people, but in the world of IEPs it is so essential. I feel as though many educators understand that children can have two different ‘personas’ so to speak, when it comes to the classroom and their home life. However, one of the benefits of the IEP is that teachers are able to combine these two environments and gain extremely important insight as to the best possible way to set the student up for success. Parents receive great benefits from IDEA. These rights not only help out the parents of the students but the teachers as well. Having these open lines of communication is so helpful for teachers when putting together IEPs.
My IEP Experience:
My first job after my undergraduate degree was a huge learning experience for me. I was a TSS for elementary students with autism and some of the very first documents that I read were the student’s IEPs. Although the documents came off a bit intimidating at first, they became extremely useful in helping me to learn my students. I was able to truly understand the best ways possible to assist my students in their classrooms and respond to them accordingly. The IEPs also gave me an understanding as to what goals the parents had for their child educationally.
According to IDEA, parents of a child with a disability have the right:
To examine all records relating to such child and to participate in meetings with respect to the identification, evaluation, and educational placement of the child, and the provision of a free appropriate public education to such child, and to obtain independent educational evaluation of the child (Claxton, 2018, pp. 15-16).
These rights enable the parents to be more involved than they would be in a general education setting. This allows them to collaborate along with the teachers, SLPS, OTs and even BCs to create a plan specific to their child. Being involved in all of these different aspects of the IEP also allows the teacher to assist parents in being a ‘teacher’ in their own home.
This may seem strange, but many parents are dependent on you to teach their child because they may either feel ill-equipped or they are ill-equipped, but with some guidance from the teacher, most parents can become a teacher at home (Claxton, 2018, p. 21).
Parent participation in an IEP also allows for the teacher to pass along information and even specific skills that they can use at home with their child. Sometimes things may not work out the same way at home as they do at school and vice versa. This is an opportunity for the parents to combine experiences with the teacher to come up with other possible solutions or share what has already been working for one or the other. In doing so, this can help create a more positive learning environment in both the home and school if both parties are on the same page.
A Potential Barrier:
In my personal experience, I have seen several parents that do not always take the most active stance in their child’s IEP journey. One barrier that I seemed to always come across was the communication barrier. Although IEPs can greaten the lines of communication, it does not always work out that way for every parent. I have experienced many sets of parents that felt a sense of isolation when it came to the IEP. Even though they were encouraged to participate as much as possible, the way that the teachers went about their involvement did not always make them feel comfortable. Claxton (2018) stated, “If we try to think of this from a parent’s perspective, we could see that a parent may not easily understand when educators talk to them in acronyms and jargon” (p. 23). Something as simple as the word choice can make parents feel inferior and anxious to contribute to the conversations in regard to their child. Making sure that parents feel welcome and comfortable are key factors in their involvement. Being cautious of the jargon usage can definitely help to lessen this barrier and assure that all participants will feel included and validated.
In my future experiences with IEPs, I hope to use all of my previous involvements and continue to build off of what I know. I hope to better familiarize myself with the documents and to be able to explain the jargon to parents while helping them feel comfortable and included throughout the process!
Claxton, B. (2018). Planning, Writing, and Implementing IEPs A Christian Approach. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt.
Nolan-Spohn (2016). Increasing Student Involvement in IEPs. Mid-Western Educational Researcher, 28(3) 300-306.
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