Monday, June 11, 2012

Scrutinize Your IEP Wording Before You Walk Into the Meeting

During an IEP meeting this morning a student's mom began crying, unexpectedly.

We had been discussing a goal and the way to measure success toward achieving the goal at different points during the next academic year, on a quarterly basis.

The student's teacher was proposing a goal related to math, for the student to be able to identify the correct number of objects in different-size groups.  That's when the mom said, "That's the goal he was working on in 2nd grade."  The student is 17 years old.

It's not that the goal wasn't appropriate to his assessed skill level, but that the mom thought that her son had made no growth in this area for 10+ years.  This lead to many other comments during the meeting about how her son was "still working on the same goals, year after year."

Well, sometimes we do choose goals that are ready for the trash bin and shouldn't be recycled year after year.  Sometimes we write those goals because we feel some kind of pressure, internal or external, to have the student master "the basics"--writing their first and last names, being able to recite their home phone number or tying their shoes independently.

Many folks might feel that recommending more self help, leisure or vocational goals signals that the school team has "given up" on academics; that we're saying the student is incapable of learning more difficult math, reading or writing.

This IEP season, writing 35 present levels of progress and sitting in numerous meetings, has reinforced to me that I need my reports, contributions to the IEP and progress notes to be more specific, to clearly describe what I'm helping the student work on in the classroom.  Also, I'm not much of a data "queen" and my data collection skills can definitely improve.  I'm becoming a big fan of the idea of having the student improve "x" percentage over the first-day-of-school baseline.  Sure, a goal like safely looking both ways before crossing the street should have 100% accuracy, but you've got to start somewhere.


Angelina said...

I absolutely agree. Word choice is crucial. I work with students ages 18-21 who have moderate to severe developmental disabilities. Many times the students come to us and we wonder what they were doing in high school. For these students basic academic skills can be integrated into life skills and activities of daily living lessons. It is possible and just take more planning.

Anonymous said...

I really agree with your post and also Angelina's comment. For me, when these moderate to severely disabled kids reach teenage years, if no progress is really being made in academic skills, life skills NEED to be addressed. I feel so strongly about this - to help them functionally. Love your blog!