This week we have a guest post from Olivia Villani who is based in the US. Here in the UK it is good practice for a child to be included in SEN education plans and to contribute to Education Health and Care Plans. However this does not always happen, here Olivia offers some great advice on why children and young people voices need to be included and some tips for discussing this with your child.
This guest post is written by Olivia Villani, a senior in college from the United States. Olivia was diagnosed at the age of 7 with Asperger’s Syndrome. Now aged 21 Olivia wants to support other neurodivergent children by sharing their experiences growing up and resources / information that is helpful.
What is the Purpose of an IEP Meeting?
When an Autism diagnosis is presented to a child’s school, one of the options presented for support is an IEP, or Individualized Education Plan. If put in place, one of the requirements of this plan is that there is a meeting held between the child’s teacher, parents, and case manager to discuss the child’s progress over the course of that quarter or semester. Unfortunately, children are often not present at these meetings due to age restrictions or them being in class at the time. It is important, then, that their voices and feedback are still heard.
It goes without saying that the line of communication between parents and children should be open about school, but this is something that should go into even more detail with children with an IEP, especially those of middle and high school age. At this point, children are more able to express themselves, and decisions made in meetings have more of an ability to impact things like their academic schedules. Questions like “How do you feel like you’re performing in school?” or “How much did you feel like your accommodations helped you?”can help to tailor the experience of each individual child. This information compared with the teachers’ input can create a better overall picture of what truly goes on in the classroom.
It can be tempting to consider IEP meetings to be an “Adults Only” conversation, but things that children share about their academic experiences are essential to be voiced. While the child may not be in the room, it is still important that their thoughts and feelings are communicated. Before each meeting, it may help to ask your child to write down a short list of feelings they have about their academic experience to be shared.
The worst thing you can do is come home from a meeting and tell your child about all these decisions that have been made about their academic future without them. Decisions made in these meetings are serious, and children should be able to feel like they have a “heads up” about things that are on the table. Even if you know that something is a “done deal,” talk to them about it- explain why this idea would be beneficial and let them take it in. If they disagree, hear them out first before the decision is final.
You may be interested in working with your child to produce a One Page Profile to share with their school.