Prior to us bringing Devin into our home, we had to be licensed and approved as foster parents because he was in the foster care system. Following our training, I began to attend meetings of a foster parent support group and at the meeting approximately one month before we were scheduled to bring Devin into our home, the guest speaker at the meeting was a local representative of our state’s Birth to Three program. This is a program to screen toddlers for a variety of issues, including developmental delays, and help the parents obtain the help that is needed. Every state has a similar program, but it may be called a different name.
What do you mean by IEP?
Following her presentation, I approached the woman and told her about our situation. We were bringing Devin home just 2 weeks before his 4th birthday, so she advised me to call her the first business day after we got home so that we could schedule a time to come to our home. When I called her, she asked me if Devin’s case worker had given me any background on evaluations that had already been performed. I told her that the only thing that I had was some paperwork that stated that he needed speech therapy, She asked me a few more questions about the paperwork that I had, and then explained that what I was holding was an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) and that it not only stated that Devin needed speech therapy but also that he was supposed to be in the summer program as well. This was my introduction to the IEP!
A short time later that day, I received a phone call from the Special Education Director of our local school district. She asked me to bring the paperwork that I had to her office as soon as possible (it was the beginning of June) so that they could accommodate Devin in the summer preschool program. When I met with her that afternoon, I have to admit that I was a bit nervous — I had never dealt with the special education system at all, and she was talking about things that I had never heard of! By the end of the meeting, we had everything set up for Devin to start the summer preschool program the following Monday.
A Day of Many Firsts
That Monday morning I was a nervous wreck — it was my first day back at work since we had brought Devin home, his first day at the local preschool, and his first day at his daycare provider! The school district would pick him up and drop him off at the daycare facility, so I dropped him off at daycare and drove to work, fretting the entire way — What if they forgot to pick him up? What if they tried to pick up or drop off from our house instead of daycare, and nobody was there? How would Devin handle all these new things all in one day? That entire day of work ended with me not even knowing what I had completed at work, but I did know that all of Devin’s transitions had gone fairly well! The daycare provider had called me after he left for preschool as well as after he returned — she must have been psychic!
My First IEP Meeting
Since Devin’s IEP had been prepared a few months prior to us bringing him into our home, I did not attend my first IEP meeting until the following February. At that meeting, I really felt like the outsider — understanding little of what was being said, and not knowing enough about the entire process to even begin to answer questions or offer input. Plus, we did not have the autism diagnosis yet. My mind was swimming as the others at the meeting discussed speech therapy, occupational therapy, social skills training and educational goals. Thank goodness someone from the school district had invited Devin’s behavioral therapist to the meeting — the next time she was scheduled to meet with us, we had a long discussion about the IEP process! Even though Devin was going to turn 5 in June, one of the decisions made at the meeting was that we would keep him in preschool for another year due to his developmental delays.
Prepared for 2nd IEP meeting? Not quite!
As overwhelming as that IEP meeting was, the one the following year was even more so. I thought I had prepared myself for this meeting, but it had also been time for his 3-year review to determine whether he still qualified for special education services so not only did we have the goals for the following year, but also all of the testing results to cover. In addition, we were scheduled to have him evaluated for autism in a few weeks so I knew there was at least one more meeting coming up before preschool was done! At this point, I was really starting to question my ability to parent this child — but I was determined that I was going to do everything within my power to do so!
My First IEP Addendum Meeting
Following the autism evaluation, we had one more meeting — this one to amend his IEP to include some sensory processing goals and to address his transition to kindergarten. It was determined that Devin would be mainstreamed in a regular kindergarten classroom and spend some time each day in the resource room for more personalized instruction. In addition, we discussed his sensitivity to loud noises such as the bells that would signal different events throughout the school day and the fire drills required throughout the year. We decided that Devin would carry a portable CD player with headphones to wear and listen to music when it was time for the bells to ring and a staff member would meet him in the gym each morning to walk him to his classroom before the rest of the students were making their way to their assigned classrooms. The school personnel also decided that when fire drills were scheduled, there would be a staff member assigned to talk to Devin a few minutes ahead of time and start getting him out of the building before everyone else even knew there was going to be a fire drill. The final preparation put in place was an agreement that several days before school started, Devin and I would go to the school building so that he could see his classroom and meet key personnel before the first day — his classroom teacher, the principal and office secretary, and the resource room teacher.
Feel Free to Leave a Comment!
Because every individual is affected by autism in different ways, the accommodations made for one student may not be needed for all. If you have comments, questions or ideas to share on how you have handled IEP situations or transitioning to a different school setting, please feel free to leave a comment! Your comment or question might be helpful to someone else reading this page!