Archive for January 18th, 2007

Homeschoolers with Special Needs: Getting an IEP

January 18, 2007 @ 9:31 am | Filed under: , , ,

Last month I posted about beginning the process of setting Wonderboy up with speech therapy services through our local public schools. These things take time (especially during the holidays), and we are just now moving to the next step. Today will be the "goals" meeting with various district personnel to determine what will go in Wonderboy’s IEP, or Individualized Education Plan.

This important document will spell out what services Wonderboy will be getting from the district and what our goals are for his progress in the next six to twelve months. If he were enrolled in a public school, the IEP would also define what special arrangements would be necessary to help him in a classroom: accomodations such as an aide, an FM system, seating near the teacher, and so forth. (I’m giving broad examples here, not necessarily things that would apply to a three-year-old.)

In the home, meeting Wonderboy’s specific needs is much easier and more intuitive than would be the case in a preschool setting, so his IEP will serve chiefly to get him speech therapy. We have a couple of options for this, and part of my job as his "case manager" has been to educate myself about the possibilities. Our district does have a dedicated deaf/hard-of-hearing preschool classroom, and I have been strongly encouraged by district personnel to consider placing him in this class. I don’t at all mind their making a pitch for the preschool: it’s part of their job.

Neither do I have any qualms about politely declining the offer. Deciding what’s best for him is part of MY job.

Here are the steps that led up to today’s meeting:

• Knowing Wonderboy qualified for speech therapy, I called the district special education office and requested an evaluation. (Even if you are only wondering whether your child qualifies for services, you can call and request an eval. The purpose of the eval is to assess whether there is indeed a qualifying need. For children over three, call the local school district’s special ed office. For children under three, call the Early Intervention office. Google your town’s name and "early intervention" and you’ll probably find the number easily.)

• The special ed office asked me to fax over his IFSP (Individualized Family Service Plan). This is the equivalent of the IEP for three-and-unders. If we had not had an IFSP—that is, if I were seeking services for the first time—the special ed office might have asked to meet with us before setting up the eval, but not necessarily. The eval itself is what determines the child’s need for services. Certain medical information can be helpful, such as Wonderboy’s latest audiologist report.

• Special ed passed our name and number to the district speech pathologist (since I was asking for speech therapy). She called and set up the evaluation I wrote about in December. If I had wanted, a physical therapist could also have been present. (I opted to postpone his PT eval for a few months.)

• Also present at the evaluation was the district’s school psychologist. This is standard practice.

• The evaluation determined what we all already knew would be the case: Wonderboy does qualify for speech therapy through the district.

• Today’s IEP meeting was scheduled. This took some coordinating, as there is a rather large team of folks involved. This is why I think it’s important for parents to do their homework—especially homeschooling parents, but really it applies to all of us. It can be intimidating to walk into a roomful of school-system professionals. They are there to help, and as parent, you are the person in charge; but it can be hard for parents to remember that.

The "team" of people at Wonderboy’s meeting will be: speech pathologist, school psychologist, traveling deaf/HH teacher, dedicated deaf/HH classroom teacher, and district audiologist (yay!!). I think that’s it. And me, of course—on this team, I’m the coach!

• After the IEP meeting was scheduled, I got calls from most of the folks on this team. I had short preliminary meetings with the traveling deaf/HOH teacher and the school psychologist.

• Which brings us up to today. I’ll let you know how it goes.