Having worked with a wide array of special needs kids, as a psychologist I am aware that many parents are fairly in the dark about their child’s governmentally sanctioned promise to be educated and supported in accordance with their special need.
An “I.E.P.” is an acronym for an Individualized Education Plan, and a parent can, by law, ask a teacher or school administrator (verbally or in writing) to evaluate a given child to determine if that child is eligible for any extra help or support (Google IEP, see this blog’s link to IEP or visit http://tiny.cc/pBKVz).
The process, roughly, is that a parent (or a teacher, with parents’ consent) requests an evaluation, and an expert then meets with the child to evaluate them in terms of learning/cognitive functioning as well as social and emotional functioning. Next, an IEP meeting is set where the “team” (parents, teachers, administrators, counselors, representative of the school district, etc.) meet to review the information and come up with the individualized educational plan.
Plans can range from no extra services needed, to pull-out support, to qualifying for an “NPS” (a non-public school) that the county would then pay for. If your child is struggling in school, but you do not have the money to seek a private consultation, requesting an evaluation from your local school is a good first step.
Money is always an issue for a school district, and this is even more of an issue in the current economy. Therefore it serves your child for you to be educated and informed about what the government is legally obligated to provide—and then for you to be the diplomatic, albeit squeaky, wheel of advocacy for your child.
Given that many parents either do not know what an IEP is, or have heard of it but don’t really understand it, many kids flounder and suffer when they could be getting some extra help.
Also, many times we parents resist evaluating our children because we don’t want to stigmatize them, or because we ourselves are too pained at the idea of our kids being “different” in any way that we employ denial to avoid dealing with the situation.
And not a few therapists lack in “bed-side manner” when informing parents about “red flags,” learning differences or social-emotional concerns. Sometimes this is due to clinicians being so seasoned that they forget what it feels like to be a parent first hearing about a concern regarding one’s child. Perhaps even the clinician has a child with a special need and may unconsciously act-out the hurt they themselves have endured in the past. No matter what the reasons, we parents need to surmount our fears and our resistance and address concerns early in our child’s life.
The main reason for this is that a small adjustment in direction early in a journey is the difference between going from New York to San Diego vs. Seattle. Small interventions can often get a child on track, help keep self-esteem in place and prevent bigger problems later down the road.
We virtually all have some “issues,” and it serves to recognize that “learning differences” are just that, not better or worse, but different styles of learning (i.e. some kids’ best window for learning is their ears, some their eyes, others their fingers); a truly skilled teacher in learning differences knows how to get the info into the child in a manner that they can make use of it. This is the only way that learning can proceed.
So, let’s dedicate today to compassionately and bravely supporting our kids, working to discover whatever might be in their way, and advocating for the best help available to guide and nourish them to be their best Selves, right along side us parents.