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(Don't leave home without them!)

It's not difficult to address your child's needs at an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting, so long as you're thoroughly prepared. Learn all you can about ADHD and any learning disabilities involved. Do some reading and research on what interventions are likely to produce positive results.

If you believe your child's disability seriously impacts academic success, you have the right to ask, in writing, for a full educational evaluation. If your child qualifies, then special services can be provided. If the qualification falls under the Individuals with Disabilities Act, then your child will have a written Individualized Education Plan, or IEP, prepared for him/her.

A team, comprised of various school officials, experts, and you will prepare the IEP. As parents, you are members of that team and your opinion is as important as any other team member. In fact, the federal government acknowledges, you are truly the expert on your child with knowledge no one else has. Go to the table well-informed and ready to lay some options of your own. Know what can work and decide what options won't be acceptable. Then review your child's evaluations and prepare to write a parent attachment. Normally, you'll request an opportunity to read this attachment at the beginning of the IEP meeting.

Understand your child's last multi-evaluation results.

Assuming your child has already been tested for the level of his learning skills, it's important for you to understand what those scores actually mean. If you need help with that, here's an excellent article on the subject.

Don't pay attention to "composite" scores, or "averages". With disabilities, you need to be concerned about scattered, or individual, scores. Pay attention to every low score. Even if you don't understand everything about every subtest, write down all those low scores and your questions about each one. "What does this particular test measure? What does that result mean to my Johnny and his teacher in the classroom? What is the likely impact?" Again, do not be distracted by discussions of "averages".

The First Document: Write your own version of your child's PLPs or Present Levels of Performance.

Get out the last Individualized Education Plan, or IEP, and place it next to the evaluation. Is every need in the evaluation reflected in the IEP? Are the recommendations in the evaluation reflected in the IEP? Now--after taking a minute for gnashing your teeth and groaning, it's time to get to work fixing things up.

Hopefully, you're familiar with the term "Present Level of Educational Performance" or PLP or PLOP. It describes, in measurable terms, where your child is performing in his/her areas of need. Those measurements are usually scattered throughout an IEP and are sometimes subjective.

I was especially impressed (cynicism here) with the PLP that read "Johnny's English is better. He's doing real good." If your child's performance in any area can't be measured in numbers, it's subjective. Make sure the evaluation comments are measurable and written into the PLP in all areas where special ed help is needed. If the school hasn't given you more recent objective, measurable, information, take the measurements from the last evaluation. Go to the meeting with the same kind of measurable information you expect from the school.

The U.S. Dept of Ed has demonstrated an alternative way of writing PLP's.

I tried it and was amazed at how it kept parents, and the rest of the team, focused on the whole child and his/her needs. While the district writes the actual PLP, you can certainly write your own and just call it A Picture of Joanie, for example. I recommend this description be at the very top of the parent attachment.

Try writing a long narrative about your child.

Take pen in hand, think about your daughter or son, get a picture in your mind, and start writing. Describe his/her disposition, personality, (shy or out-going, laid-back or sensitive, etc.), likes, dislikes, sensitivities, medical conditions that impact education, and level of self-esteem. Work in those measurable test results, showing a need for help in those areas.

Write about the strengths, be they in art, hands-on mechanical skills, writing, storytelling, etc. End with the dreams of where your child sees him/herself in 10-15 years; whether college is in those dreams, or a vocational-technical school, or if there's a need to get training out in the community while still in high school. You'd be surprised at the answers even second grade children with disabilities give to these questions. They can show great faith in the future, and sometimes awesome maturity at a tender age.

Now see if you can whittle those three pages down to one. Stick to the basics, other than one good emotional paragraph because, after all, you ARE the mom or dad and your emotional feelings can have an impact on the rest of the team members.

Come on, give it a try. Usually, parents really enjoy this exercise once they start writing. When finished, you'll have the first of the two documents completed. And, oh yes, don't forget to attach a picture of your child. That way, team members remember they aren't just dealing with a black-and-white sheet of paper, but a real, live human-being.

The second document is what I call a Parent Attachment. This document reflects all your specific concerns and your judgment of what your child needs. The plain truth is, if you're having to resort to these strategies, obviously your district hasn't served your child's needs. So it's important to get this down in writing.

I find that when a parent is well-informed about what's needed, it's much easier to get those needs met. It shouldn't be that way, but I understand the reality out there in many situations. Frequently, if the school doesn't point out a need, it's not going to be in the IEP. Hopefully, you'll have done some research on what can help your child's particular disabilities. With access to the net, an abundance information is now available.