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Your Child’s IEP – Get One and Keep Up With It

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Does your grandchild show behaviors that “just don’t seem right”?  When a child is young, he grows at his own pace.  This can make it hard to know for sure if a behavior should concern you.  He may need an IEP.

Sometimes there is nothing obviously wrong.  Yet, slowly you develop a nagging feeling that things are not quite right.  As always, go with your gut feeling.

My grandson has had speech therapy for two years now (he is 4).  I thought that was his only problem.

Several months ago, I had experienced enough doubt about his behaviors to seek help.  I had been convinced for a long time that he had ADHD.  Slowly other things started to concern me.  One or two of these things alone would not have bothered me at all.  When I considered it all together I didn’t feel confident that his behavior was age-appropriate.

There are “ships” and there are “submarines”.  Blindness or cerebral palsy constitute a “ship”.  Then there are submarines.  They are subtle signs that point to an issue not yet diagnosed.  When your unconscious radar picks up a “submarine”, take notice.

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First, I jotted down all of the concerning behaviors I could think of.  My daughter (his aunt) has been instensely involved with him since his birth.  I asked her for observations and added these to my list.

I contacted the coordinator in the school system who had gotten him speech therapy started.  She sent a form called “Ages and Stages” to me and to the daycare.  The teacher and I scored him almost exactly the same.  This was surprising, since he never got in trouble there.  She had actually remarked several times that he was her best student.

The scores from the “Ages and Stages” test were high enough to warrant testing.

My grandson had been tested for speech problems two years earier but not for other concerns.  So he had an IEP.  This only included goals for progress with his speech.  Actually, I had no other concerns at that time.  So now he had to be evaluated for social-emotional issues.

My county is, shall we say, economically challenged.  The school system is not well funded, so the staff is overworked.  That’s the reason they gave for taking more than two months to get to my grandson”s case.  By then the school year was ending.  I had called several times.  This “team” doesn’t work during the summer.  Three weeks into the new school year they had a meeting and sent his case on to the psychologist.  Now it is four weeks into the school year.  I’m not sure how long it will be before they take the next step.  So far, it has been six months since I contacted them.  Yes, part of that time was the summer and they weren’t working then.  Yet, this is a long time to put off addressing concerns with a child’s development.  worried 2310879  340 300x249 - Your Child's IEP - Get One and Keep Up With It

If you suspect that your grandchild needs some sort of help, please don’t wait to seek out the people who can guide you to the resources you need!  “The system” seldom moves quickly.

I urge you to stay informed as much as possible.  To do this, you may have to research things for yourself.  It is also a good idea to talk to everybody involved with the child.  You never know what you might learn to help you advocate for your grandchild.

For instance, my grandson qualifies for speech therapy twice a week.  The structure of the laws here allow for two visits a week from the therapist.  This is clearly stated in his present IEP.  During the school year, he is allowed one visit from the school-based therapist and one visit from the private therapist, who bills Medicaid.  The private speech therapist communicated with me regularly.  I never heard from the speech therapist from the school system.  It was half-way into last school year that I learned she wasn’t seeing him on a regular basis.

This year that speech therapist has taken another job.  So far, the school system has been unable to find another therapist for daycare and pre-K children.  Because of this, he is only getting speech therapy once a week even though his IEP states that he will get it twice a week.  They can’t provide the service promised until they find a new speech therapist, but not following a child’s IEP is grounds for legal action.

Had I not questioned the school and talked to the private speech therapist, I would not have been aware of the situation.

I also discovered that in accordance with his IEP, each therapist is required to give me a progress report at the end of each school grading period.  Surprise!  That never happened with the school therapist!

This is an example of the importance of regular contact with anyone involved with your child’s development.  I have been a thorn in the side of the coordinator about the social-emotional testing, and it has still stretched out to six months so far!

If you don’t get action, call.  Find out what the hold-up is and ask when to expect an answer.  Follow up.  Be polite but PERSISTENT!

In fact, a retired teacher advised me that calling may not be enough.  It would be wise to visit the contact person face to face.  “Stay in their faces”, she said.  Make noise.  Be nice but let them know you won’t stop until you get what your child deserves.

I wish I had made more noise at the beginning.  I went on a class trip with my grandson last week.  My grandson said something to me and I answered.  The child nearby asked me “You know what he said?”  This may sound stupid, but it was the first time that I realized that some children at his school don’t understand him.  I guess I was caught by surprise because his cousins understand him pretty well.  This is going to cause social isolation for him.

I certainly don’t want any other factors to cause him trouble down the road.  That is why I am relentlessly pursuing the testing for social/emotional evaluation.

You may want to visit https://www.understood.org/en This site gives insight into many issues with child development.  There is an article on how to get an IEP for your child.  They also have an excellent article called What Can I Do If the School Is Moving Too Slowly With an Evaluation?

If you think your child may need help with a developmental issue, talk to your pediatrician or call your local school district office.  The law requires each school district to have a set procedure for identifying, testing, and making an IEP for children with any type of disability.

This is my humble advice:

  1.  Be aware, be proactive, and be persistent!
  2. If you don’t get an answer, ask again or ask someone else.
  3. Get a copy of your child’s IEP.
  4. Make sure the IEP provider gives you a copy of the handbook on parents’ rights.  Refer to it if needed.
  5. Stay in touch with everyone involved in providing services to your child.
  6. If an issue is not resolved in a reasonable amount of time, go one step above the person you have been working with.  If that doesn’t resolve the issue, go higher.
  7. Do everything you can at home to help your child.  Speech and occupational therapists will often give you exercises you can do at home with the child  Remember, they can’t fix things in 30 minutes to an hour.  You need to reinforce the lessons every day.

There is too much paperwork in the world today.  That takes time.  The more time it takes, the further your child gets behind.  Take action and don’t let up!  It can make a world of difference in a child’s life.

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