Wondering how to support a kid with an IEP?
Elementary school has brought about many challenges for my little family. My oldest son, who is now in third grade, has had to deal with kindergarten at a school with high teacher turnover, a first grade teacher who was fresh out of college, and a referral for special education. Having been in educational leadership in various roles over the past 18 years, I knew we were in for a battle to ensure that my son would receive the support he needed and to ensure we had a plan to move forward. So I had to learn how to support a kid with an IEP.
Kindergarten was a travesty because my son had 4 different teachers in one school year (every teacher resigned and their class had various substitutes). The school “suggested” that he had ADHD and that was why he was not reading. I KNEW that he was not reading because he did not have the foundation he needed with phonics throughout the kindergarten year. He was struggling while I was doing everything in my power to assist him at home. I knew we had met EVERY developmental goal since birth, so I was not going to let someone label my child as LD (learning disabled) without a fight.
I will tell ANY parent that is in a situation where it has even been MENTIONED that your child may need special education, to find an independent psychologist to test your child before the school system does. When my son was referred for RTI (response to intervention), the teacher did not make me aware until he was at Level II. Dealing with a novice teacher, she automatically assumed that since he was reading below level, that there were some learning or developmental issues, not taking into account the impact of coming out of kindergarten with 4 different teachers.
Being referred to RTI meant that my son was being put on the path to special education. Although I knew he needed extra help, I understood that he needed a strong advocate to take control of the situation and the process, as well as follow up to ensure that all of his needs and goals were being met. I will tell ANY parent that is in a situation where it has even been MENTIONED that your child may need special education, please find an independent psychologist to test your child before the school system does. Also, spend time with your child’s pediatrician going through school issues, goals, and share all of the results and findings of the independent psychologist, then request testing through the school. These steps are crucial because when you meet to discuss the findings of the school psychologist, having independent results can assist in the choices that are being made for your child.
After nearly 2 years of consultation with my ex-spouse, family pediatrician, multiple meetings with teachers and school administration, and even sessions with our independent psychologist, my son's diagnosis was ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), with no LD. When meeting in ARD (Admission Review and Dismissal) with the SPED (special education). We developed an IEP (Individualized Education Program) to meet my son's needs and create goals that would challenge him and to help him grow as a student.
After the ARD, we decided as a team (my ex-husband, the pediatrician, and myself) to give our boy a low dose of ADHD medication. We saw almost instantaneous improvement. Behavior problems stopped, he increased 8 reading levels in one school year, and he has been on the A/B Honor Roll for two straight years. Life has gotten a lot better. Gone are the days when “bad” notes are coming home, and I can tell that my son is retaining information and thoroughly enjoying school. I stay in constant contact with his school and I remind the teachers as well as the administration that I am my son’s NUMBER ONE advocate, so I will be involved and I will communicate weekly in order to ensure all of his accommodations are met, and that we are aligned as a team (school and home) in order to make sure my son is a success.