IEP review time!!

This is such a crucial time of year for all of us “Special Needs” families.

It’s time for the dreaded annual IEP (Independent Educational Plan) review.

Please, Please, Please remember the following very IMPORTANT actions you need to take as you prepare.

  • The IEP and CST (Child Study Team) meeting is yours, NOT theirs!                                              This meeting is taking place because of you, your child, and your family
  • Come prepared                                                                                                                                                Make sure you prepare an agenda of what you want to discuss, see happen, plans and interventions “needed,” etc…                                                                                                            Don’t let them dictate the meetings time frame and events. Yes, you may want to discuss those evaluations and test scores, but it is NOT the only reason you are there. Make sure you have ALL re-eval documents a minimum of 10 days prior to the meeting. Understand what they mean and what are your child’s strength and weakness areas yes, but unless you need clarification…going over stats and percentages should not monopolize the time you have to meet.                                                      If your child is already classified and has been, chances are you are aware and agree that he/she has a disability and is entitled to services. So, get down to business after a short (15 minute) review of the evals.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            NEVER, deny or refuse triennial re-evaluations!
  • Parental Concerns is IMPERATIVE!!                                                                                                            Every IEP has a “Parental Concerns” section, it’s usually a tiny box only about 1/4″ wide….. This does NOT mean you have to fit all of your concerns here!                              Come with an already prepared, typed statement of your parental concerns (probably what you intend to discuss anyway) and formally REQUEST it be included in the official (LEGAL) document of your child’s IEP. This way it becomes a full part of that IEP and everyone your child works with will have access to your input.
  • Record, Report, Re-state                                                                                                                                 Most schools will send you a confirmation letter stating the time, place, and whom will attend the IEP meeting. It may ask if you intend to bring someone? If you request any other professionals and staff? and whether or not you plan to record the meeting?                                                                                                                                                        YES! You want to record the meeting!                                                                                              No, not to antagonize or catch them….. but to have a record for your own to review or for the review of others that may have been unable to attend (That parent out there earning the paycheck who can’t afford another day off the job).                                    You are emotionally involved. Therefore you may not remember or even understand what is being stated/proposed and you need to review the meeting later when you are in a calmer state.                                                                                                                                 The recording will also serve as a resource you can refer to in order to clarify the items discussed for your follow up summary.
  • Follow up summary                                                                                                                                           YES! ALWAYS follow up EVERY meeting, phone call, discussion, teacher email, notes and ANY contact you have with the professionals that service your child with a follow up summary….   “My understanding of what was discussed, proposed, implemented etc….”
  • Finally, and probably MOST IMPORTANT!!!                                                                                              Send ALL correspondence to no less than 3 people in your district ie. the case manager, head of special services, and the building principal. This will ensure you are heard! As well as provide a time stamped/documented record (always send via email) of your insights and perceptions. It also helps that others on your child’s case are aware that they are accountable to replying and taking actions by others within the system.                                                                                                                                                     A recent statement from a client…..”thank you- I did the “copy 3 people on email thing” the last 2 times- whew boy does that work! THANK YOU! “
  • Get support!                                                                                                                                                         If you feel you need some support or expert advice, contact us here at Special Needs NJ  (973-534-3402) to talk to an Advocate/Special Education Consultant

The Emotions of Caring for Elderly Parents

As your parents or your spouse’s parents get older, they will probably need your help. They will also possibly need professional help with their daily care. The very people whom you depended on in the past will be turning to you for assistance. The fundamental nature of your relationship with your parents will change in a more dramatic way than you have ever experienced. Now you and your spouse will be the caregivers.

Caring for your parents as they get older is often a stressful experience. There are many emotions you might experience along with your new responsibility. When you become the caretaker of your parents, it’s very important for you to be aware of your emotions. It can make the difference between having a meaningful, rewarding experience and having one of the worst experiences of your life. The following sections describe the most common emotions people feel when they are faced with their parents becoming older and less independent.        

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Denial

One of the first things you might feel when facing a parent’s decline in function is—nothing. It’s very common to initially be in denial about a difficult situation. When you are in denial about something, you are trying to convince yourself that it’s not really happening. For instance, imagine that your father, who lives alone, is slowing down and becoming weaker. You want to keep thinking of him as strong and healthy, so you tell yourself that he’s generally fine. In the short run, that makes you feel better. But, your father probably shouldn’t be living alone. And you won’t be able to help him find a safer place until you are able to acknowledge his limitations. Denial can prevent you from facing facts and making necessary plans.

Anger

Another emotion you might feel is anger at your parents for being unable to take care of themselves. For example, you might feel that it’s their fault for not staying healthy, even though you know that they are not getting sick on purpose. You might resent the fact that they are taking so much of your time and energy. You are especially vulnerable to feeling anger if your relationship with your parents was less than perfect. It’s more difficult to take care of someone that you feel some resentment toward. But, even if you have a great relationship with your parents, caring for them might feel like a huge burden. It makes sense that you might feel angry because you have been shouldered with a big responsibility.

Think Twice

Don’t take your anger at the situation out on your spouse. Instead, discuss your feelings of anger or resentment with him or her. Remember that your spouse can be your strongest source of support during this difficult time.

Helplessness

Even though you are grown up, you might feel like your parents should always be there to take care of you and still help you through difficult times. Seeing your mother or father helpless can make you feel helpless. You might think “If my parents can’t take care of me, who will?” You are your parents’ child, even as an adult. And when one of your parents is weak, part of you is going to feel like a scared, helpless child. Even though you know that you can take care of yourself, you still might feel that you need your parents to take care of you.

Guilt

Guilt is one of the strongest emotions people feel as a parent becomes older and less able to care for him- or herself. There are many reasons that you might be feeling guilty. You might feel that you are not doing enough to help your parents. This might be true, or you might be doing more than a reasonable amount and feel guilty anyway. You might feel that if you had done something different years ago, then your parent would not be so ill now. For instance, you might think that if you had taken your mother’s complaint about feeling weak and tired more seriously, her cancer would have been diagnosed earlier and she would have been cured.

If one of your parents is very sick and needs a lot of expensive care and a lot of your energy, you might be secretly wishing that he or she would die so that it would be over. This thought would probably cause you to feel incredibly guilty. It’s very common to feel this, and it’s a completely normal reaction. It doesn’t mean that you don’t love your sick parent and it doesn’t mean you are a terrible child. It means that it’s very difficult and possibly very expensive to care for an ill person—realities that can prompt all kinds of unexpected thoughts and feelings. The best way to deal with these feelings is to acknowledge them but still do as much as you can to care for your parents.

A Sense of Loss

When your parent is no longer functioning at 100 percent, that is a big loss. It’s normal to feel sad, and it’s actually a mature feeling. Feeling sad when your parents are ill and unable to take care of themselves means that you have accepted the situation and the loss that occurs when your parent’s health declines. You shouldn’t hold back tears. Crying is part of feeling sad and it’s okay to express your emotions. That doesn’t mean that you should spend years moping around and crying as your parents become more and more ill. But sadness comes with loss, and you should give yourself permission to feel it.

Mortality

Parents are the buffer between you and your mortality. Most people are able to ignore the inevitability of their own death as long as their parents are alive and healthy. But as your parent’s health declines, you will probably become highly aware of your own mortality. You might start thinking about the end of your own life or have frequent nightmares about dying. You might start examining where you are in life and re-evaluating your long-term goals. When you face the death of someone close to you, it will often spark thoughts about your own life. This is good, and the way to make use of this constructively is to realize how precious life is and what is really important to you.

IEP Tips: How to prepare for the IEP meeting

The following are IEP tips and strategies designed to help you prepare for the meeting while developing a collaborative relationship  with your school  district. As a parent, hearing the words “IEP Meeting” might cause you feel nervous, overwhelmed or even experience a feeling of dread. We know from life, that if we are prepared, our anxiety levels go down.

IEP TIPS for a SUCCESSFUL MEETING:

1. Respond to the meeting notification and let them know you will be attending.   If you plan on bringing an outside friend, specialist or advocate, let the district know ahead of time. If you cannot attend, ask to reschedule.  Let the school know the meeting is important to you.

2. Bring all important documents to the meeting.  If you received a negative report card, progress report or if your child is having behavioral problems, bring these documents.   If you’ve recently seen a medical doctor or psychologist, you might ask the doctor to write some type of summary report that can be shared at the meeting.

3. You have a right to receive a copy of the assessment results ahead of time so you can preview them before the meeting.   You may also request a copy of the proposed IEP and the actual goals in advance so you can preview them and jot down questions you have.

 

4. Write down your questions, concerns and suggestions.  IEP meetings tend to be slightly rushed so the more prepared and organized you are the better chance that all your concerns and questions will be addressed.

5. You may visit possible program options prior to the meeting.  Ask for a visit to be arranged before the IEP meeting takes place.

6. You may tape record the meeting. Notify the case manager or special education teacher at least 24 hours in advance if you plan on doing this.

7. Be an equal partner in the IEP process:  Don’t silently sit there.   Ask questions, offer suggestions and bring ideas to the table. Remember, you are the voice of your child.

8. Ask for a copy of your rights n advance so you feel comfortable signing them when asked.

9.  If you are uncomfortable with the IEP plan or do not feel you’ve had enough time, don’t be afraid to ask for a continuation meeting. You do not have to sign the IEP!

You can say something like, “I really like many of the things we discussed today. I don’t feel ready to sign this yet, but I’m sure if we can continue this meeting we will be able to work through the remaining issues.”

10. Remember, you can agree to parts of the plan without agreeing to the entire IEP. The parts you’ve agreed on will be implemented while you continue to work on the remaining issues.

11.  IDEA states that you can ask to take the IEP home for further review before you sign it. Some parents find it overwhelming or feel too rushed during the actual meeting to make a final decision.