So the IEP Goals were not met….Part 2

inclusive-play-6Let’s suppose that the IEP goals were perfect for your child 6 months or 1 year ago, and they are still perfect BUT, very little progress was made.   Should you just say – let’s roll these over to the next year?  If you don’t make changes can you expect a different outcome?  Consider these thoughts.  

FIRST- make really sure that you cannot break this goal or the objectives down to smaller goals and objectives that are more likely to be successful.  Marking success is important for the child and for everyone on the team. There is a huge difference for everyone hearing “no progress was made” vs. “the goals were met”.  Think in terms of tinier steps to take to get there.   If your child can’t write letters think of everything that goes in to writing letters.  

For example:

The understanding of the instruction

The ability to use the tools – paper, pen, etc – hand grasp, pressure, movement

The ability to see – think glasses, CVI etc

The ability to form the pieces

Here’s some questions to ask yourself:  Does he know what you are asking him to do?  Does he know recognize letters?  Does he know how to make the lines and circles that letters consist of?  Does he know how to hold the writing tool?  Can he use the typical desk or slant board, or would another placement be better?  Does he feel the paper when he makes marks?  Should it be textured?  Can he see easily?  Are glasses needed?  Does he need black paper with white chalk?  Yellow paper with Green Felt pens? Backlighting?

large_ARLENEUse this idea of breaking down the task to think of the questions you would ask about the specific goals that are set for your child.  If you think of the parts that will be a challenge then that might where changes can be made to help your child be successful.  Notice I did not say that is what the goal should be.  That is where the learning ENVIRONMENT should change to suit your child.

Every accomplishment can be put on a continuum.  Speaking, Writing, Reading, Crawling, Rolling, following instructions etc.  Think of the goals you have set.  Where is your child on the continuum?  Do you need to step back and set a smaller goal?  Should you expect lines and circles instead of complete letters?  Should you expect 10 alphabet words instead of all of them?

NEXT – if you are still convinced the goals are appropriate, it’s time to look at two things.  How is the plan being implemented, and is there a health, medication, behavior issue interfering?

I have seen some ineffectual implementation.  Sometimes time just keep passing and the team doesn’t coordinate what needs to be done.  Evaluation of adapted options, or seats, etc take time.  Equipment funding and ordering takes time.  Sometimes there isn’t the correct staffing in place.  The teacher might be overwhelmed and your child’s needs aren’t deliberately being ignored but implementation is not high enough on the priority list.

I have found the best solution for this is to first ask if there is anything you can help with.  One teacher who moved classrooms at the last minute was so grateful that all the parents showed up to help her move and set up.  Their children’s programs went much more smoothly when she didn’t need to stretch the transition over weeks, and she felt very cared for.  Each family sent one person down, even if they had to take a few hours off work.  That was very heartwarming to hear.

The second thing to do is ask for follow up IEP meeting (s).  You are entitled to ask for them as often as needed.  Sometimes when things are in transition parents have mini meeting weekly or monthly.  It doesn’t have to include the full table of administrators, as the yearly meeting would, unless you see a reason to need them there.  You can plan ahead for this and set the dates in advance or you can submit a request when you see the need.  I think they have a month to respond with possible dates.  Knowing there is a deadline to report on progress can cause things to be at the top of the todo list for those implementing.

ALSO – look at health, medication, and behavior.  

The school has no control of health and medication but you do.  Is your child taking a seizure medicine that interferes with learning?  Are there any medications causing brain fog?  Is there a need to look at nutrition?  

Is the class environment making it difficult for your child to focus, attend, be in learning mode?  You can’t ask the teacher to change what is working for herself and the other students but you CAN ask to see other classes to see if there is a more optimal environment for your child, or in the case of regular education classrooms, speak to the principal about your child’s needs and the available teachers’s teaching styles.

If your child has an IEP you already know that you have responsibilities far beyond what other parents have as they send their child into the care of the teacher and school.  The ideas discussed here will take some thought on your part but it will be so worthwhile in the long term.  You will se your child’s needs and program much more clearly and be ready to do your part to hep them be successful.

Part 1:

Related Post:

IEP time – focus on the positive


What if your child did not meet IEP goals? Part 1

children_drawing_with_crayonsSo you are reading through the evaluations and everything sounds really negative.  Goal after goal is not met.   You immediately tighten up, feel stressed, feel like your child is not measuring up.  

When goals and objectives are not met the traditional thing to do is look at the child’s failures.  That is NOT what an IEP is about.  Individual Education Plans are intended to identify your child’s strengths so the team can develop a program custom tailored for their success.  That gets lost in all the testing.

Take a couple of deep breaths.  Read below and design the NEXT IEP for your child’s success.  First possibility – the wrong goals and objectives were set.  Here’s an example:

This child has difficulty using their hands for fine motors so these 2 goals are set.

Goal 1: Child will sit upright with feet on floor and legs at 90 degrees

Goal 2: Child will write his alphabet letters with 90% accuracy

These goals focus on the motor skills that the child has difficulty with. They do not break the task down into the ingredients for success that they uniquely will use.  If these goals are the focus of the IEP then there will be limited time to show all the other wonderful things the child can achieve and demonstrate in class.

drawing-competition-for-school-kids_l-295x196Note:  none of the other children are sitting with their feet flat and their legs at 90 degrees.  I guarantee it.  Children need to move all the time.  Your child does too.

See how the REVISED goals are about meeting the child where they are and providing the means for them to learn and succeed.  You might add some OT or PT or ABM goals to support those listed below and stipulate whether they are provided outside the class, or provided by the parent at home.

REVISED GOAL 1: Child will have supports in place to achieve more ease with fine motors

Objective:  Child will be able to to grasp and release many differently shaped objects easily

Objective 2: Child will be able to draw circles, straight lines, wavy lines and dots with ease.

Implementation – Trial of a number of chairs with varying level of support to determine what is needed.

Crayon-Sandpaper-DrawingREVISED GOAL 2:  Child show understanding of alphabet letters and sounds through reading and writing.

Objective 1:  Child will form letters through tracing, putting shapes together, and writing with an adapted or unadapted implement.

Objective 2: Child will select correct letter when given the name or sound from a  field of 8.

Implementation:  OT to test adapted implements including hand straps, built up handles, variety of shapes etc.  Teach and OT to adapt assignment by providing cut paper, iPad app, alphabet cards as appropriate.

These new goals and objectives make it clear that the child is doing fine and the task is for the professionals to design the environment that will work for the child.

Part 2 –

Related post:

IEP time – focus on the positive


IEP time – focus on the positive

The tests are in, you have a meeting scheduled and you are dreading it.  I know how you feel.  The IEP season is  so tough for parents to get through when it’s all about what your child can NOT do.  

Here’s the message you and I might want to send:

Guess what professionals?  I live with my child every day – I know very well what his limitations are.  Let’s get over that and talk about how we are going to build on his strengths!

I just received a business article about what successful companies do to get the most from their employees, to have happy employees, and to have employees who want to stick around long term!!

What they DON’T do is work on their employees’ weaknesses.  Big surprise right?  It’s now clear in the business world that if they focus on their employees’ strengths, the reasons they actually HIRED them, the employees contribute more and are happier.  Working on weaknesses and trying to turn everyone into well rounded employees brings down their quality, productivity and moral.

Well guess how this applies to kids, and ESPECIALLY special needs children?  Exactly the same.  It doesn’t mean we ignore the need to keep make gains in areas that are delayed.  But the focus should always be on the strengths.  When the goal is to show that the material is understood go to strengths.  

Encourage flexible ways of demonstrating knowledge.  Can’t use scissors?  Teacher cuts up shapes and the student selects the appropriate one to show they KNOW THEIR SHAPES.  Can’t write alphabet letters clearly? How about selecting scrabble letters, iPad letters, or flash cards to show knowledge and understanding.  

If the focus is on not being able to use scissors or pen, then all of the time will be spent on learning the thing that is the very hardest for your child.  If they could do it easily they would already be doing it.  Your child won’t have the chance to show how artistic, funny, creative, compassionate, or fun they really are.  They will feel like life is a struggle, like they are a failure, and like they are different from the other children.  They are the same in so many more ways than they are different.

if your IEP is about what KNOWLEDGE your child needs to demonstrate in class then the challenge is put squarely with the professionals to figure out how to use your child’s strengths so they can show what they know.

Focus on the positive.

 Related posts

What if your child did not meet IEP goals? Part 1

So the IEP Goals were not met….Part 2


The Importance of Acceptance

brain-plasticity-and-children-with-special-needsChildren or people with disabilities don’t have something equivalent to the “man up” phrase that boys and men encounter.  It is more subtle and the message is  “Don’t be different”.  Parents never intend to make “different” seem wrong, but, isn’t that what we are battling when we go to therapy, buy equipment, encourage our child to sit up, stop drooling, sit still, fix your foot.  We want our kids to have a typical childhood.  How do parents find the accepting, loving, message to send to their child at the same time they are trying to help their child with special needs?  How does society say “we value you the way you are” or not?  Why is being accepted the way they are so important for our children?

Boys becoming men.  The pressure is huge to be something that fits an “image” instead of being who you are.   Here are two videos a friend just pointed me to about being told to “man up”.  They have such a clear message.  We can learn from their power.  Substitute an image of your child with special needs receiving the message they are NOT ok, every time they say “man up” and imagine what that does, how they would feel.

There you go. Not so long ago “man up” was perfectly acceptable.  What are the messages your child is receiving about not being typical? How does it feel to not have access?  to be told to do things to be socially acceptable when they aren’t possible? 

My son’s 3rd grade teacher partnered him with a boy who was on his way to becoming a bully.  His parents were in jail.  He had been kept back so he was one of the bigger kids in the class.  He tended towards anger.  I think he was part of the “man up” experience.  Don’t fall apart, be stoic, don’t show vulnerability.  During that time that he was my son’s class buddy he transformed.  He transformed to the point that he was even willing to join my son in a silly bear costume for a talent show in front of the school.   How vulnerable did that make him?  I think knowing my son changed the course of his life.  My theory?  My son was totally non threatening.  He had nothing to prove to my son.  This boy was able to be compassionate and make a difference for someone else.  He was able to get away from “man up” and have another experience.

What experience do you want for your child?  I think this is the highest priority a parent can have.  We are not perfect.  Our anxiety for our child’s wellbeing can interfere with this goal.  Realize you slipped.  You made fitting in, or being closer to typical, more important than being “ok the way you are” – and recommit.  Insist that others be as committed.  It is the foundation of what we want for ourselves, our children, and everyone else – to be accepted for who we are.

Andrea L Bowers