Monday, September 10, 2012

IEPs can eat your life away

My brain is in total IEP mode right now. Why so early? I wasn't smart enough to realize that the September 30 cut-off date last year might suggest that an Oct. 3rd IEP should probably go ahead and be scheduled for the end of the year. Unfortunately one student comes from Pre-K, which means that I barely know this student and am scrambling to learn what I can.

For those of you who are not familiar or still learning about SLP, the reason why IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) are so important to school-based SLPs is that they are mandated by federal law. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 essentially states that every individual deserves the right to a free and appropriate education. The parents are not paying the public schools for their children to come to speech, OT, PT, EC, etc...(asides from what everyone pays out in taxes) because the child demonstrates an educational need for this extra support. There MUST be an educational need; however, and sometimes it may be hard to demonstrate how a certain disorder impacts their education (like..swallowing/feeding which I'm not allowed to deal with in my district).

The process for IEPs appears deceptively simply in grad. school when you have professors who make everything sound easy and a university clinic that operates in another realm of reality. It took me the entire school year (2011-2012) to learn enough to feel comfortable when leading IEP meetings as a CF. The challenges are numerous:
     1. Paper work that often sets you up to write things that can be considered pre-determination (and if you don't write things up ahead of time you are faced with a ton of awkward silence as you try to type/write everything).
     2. Language barriers
     3. Explaining everything in parent-friendly terms because you have been surrounded by your area of expertise for long enough that it seems like everyone should understand what you're talking about (in reality, you may be the only one of your kind in the building and NO ONE knows what you do...even after a year....)
      4. Finding a time when everyone can meet. Calling parents first or after consulting with the Reg. Ed. teacher is highly recommended as it saves a lot of headaches.
      5. Leading the meeting (especially if you are more introverted).

Don't get me wrong, I am glad that we have a federal law that protects our students and gets them the services that they need. I just wish graduate schools actually did more to show their students how time consuming and stressful the process can be when you first get out. Actually, there's a lot that I think graduate schools like to skim over but I suppose that disconnect is caused by their inability to foresee where their students will end up. The resulting "deer in headlights" experience as a CF is uncomfortable and I've heard quite frequently that it can take 5 years to truly feel comfortable in the job.

In the meantime, here is a freebie for a noun activity that I made recently. It's for sorting nouns from verbs. I made it for a grammar notebook that two of my students are working on this year. Each part of speech will be covered in a series of activities (like worksheets from online, sorting activities, recognition activities, cloze paragraphs, etc) that they can review at any point. I plan on using my new grammar chipper chat to help review each part of speech that we complete before moving on to the next topic. (I am ridiculously excited about the chipper chat and have already introduced my younger kids to the artic one.)
    *You may want to print out the slides via 6 to a page. That's what I did to make them more like flashcards.*

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