There’s no magic bullet
Qualifying for special education services is not a magic bullet that will suddenly shift your student from struggling to straight As. However, they should feel less stress, more supported, and begin achieving the goals set out for them in their plan.
If this is not the case, it is time to go back to the drawing board. As a parent, you are a member of the IEP team, and thus can call a meeting at any time, just as any other member of your child’s team may. If your child continues to struggle and it has been at least three months since they were determined eligible for services or their last plan was created, it could be time to revisit their plan.
When you do sit down with your child’s team, it is important to note what is going well. We don’t want to throw out the baby with the bath water, and it is always a good idea to start with your child’s strengths and successes. It is these very things that will help the team find solutions to the learning gaps that exist. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and as adults, we know that we use our strengths to compensate for and support us through our weaknesses. It is no different in this situation.
The importance of alignment
After a review of what is working, take a look at the areas that need to be built up and their corresponding goals. If there aren’t goals in those areas, this may be the entire problem. Write them! If there are goals, how is progress being measured? Are the goals/objectives written in a manner that allows for meaningful measurement? If not, rewrite them.
Ok, assuming you now have solid, measureable goals targeting areas of need, how is your student being supported in meeting the goals and objectives? What accommodations have been effective so far? Where are there gaps in support? Does your student need a more or less restricitve environment in order to achieve them? Are there services that align to the goals that could be considered?
An effective Individualized Education Plan will align supports and services directly to the goals. Ofttimes, this key ingredient is lost in the planning. Teams will skip ahead to supports before determining goals, or move on to supports without being mindful of the student’s goals. When this alignment is missing, then all the supports in the world aren’t necessarily going to be helpful to the student.
When a team gets stuck
This is also the time in crafting an IEP that takes the most creativity and may require high levels of problem solving and collaboration skills. As with any team, some teams are more cohesive and experienced than others. If your team gets stuck, it may be time to call in a consultant, either from your local intermediary school district (ISD), or a private educational consultant such as CASE.