Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Exploring the Parent-Child Dynamic within the IEP Team

originally posted at thinkinclusive.com

Listen To Your Kids

Think inclusive… about the IEP process and IEP team from the child’s perspective. Tim Villegas does an excellent job here gathering parental and professional insights on educating students with disabilities. Today I hope to add a new comprehensive layer by discussing the student viewpoint. Disclaimer, rather than providing you with answers my post aims to raise questions and stimulate dialogue.

First though, perhaps I should make a proper introduction. I’m Zachary Fenell, an author and freelance writer who enjoys exploring different disability related issues. My interest in disabilities remains personal considering I was born with a mild case of cerebral palsy (CP). In my teen memoir Off Balanced (available on the Kindle and Nook) I share how my CP affected me socially as an adolescent.

Additionally I write articles for The Mobility Resource, an organization with handicap van dealers across the United States. Plus I serve as the Guest Blog Coordinator for Handicap This Productions, a critically acclaimed group attentive on educating, entertaining, and empowering the world on disability orientated topics. Also worth noting I contributed articles to Special Education Guide, an informational website dedicated to covering all things special education.

Anyways, now you know my credentials. Shall we get to the point? Reflect on how your son or daughter’s IEP team functions. When possible, does he or she contribute? Do the IEP team members respect the ideas and notions your child brings forward? More specifically, do you value your son or daughter’s input?  Answering this last question proves especially important, given in my personal experience the parent and child influence the IEP process the most.

You see, in my situation my parents set the tone for our yearly IEP team meetings. My mother entered the room focused, ready to address her concerns with regards to the next school year. The other team members listened and the appropriate conversations proceeded. The discussions rarely if ever induced surprise from me because my parents talked to me about their concerns prior to the meetings. Still I did not always feel Mom and Dad seriously contemplated my feedback.

Allow me to illustrate. In Off Balanced I document an argument I had with my parents when preparing to transition from upper elementary school to junior high school. Despite my mild CP, I can ascend and descend steps rather easily using a railing. Such the case, I wanted to use the stairs at school like everybody else. My parents maintained other ideas. Citing safety concerns, they pretty much told me I must take the elevator at school.

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