Monday, March 14, 2016

How an Individualised Education Program Can Work For You

Welcome to The Cherry On Top.

On Mondays we talk Autism.  We realise how difficult it is to get condensed, easy to read, geared for a general population and possible solutions all wrapped up in one cohesive, short post.  That's our goal on Mondays.

I've done a touch of research on IEP's (Individualised Educational Program) because we also use the Belgian version of this in connection to homework.  I'd like to bring to the table, the information I found on the necessity of homework according to research and provide tips on minimising stress due to homework, exams and lengthy assignments, which through an IEP can be configured.

Let's start off looking at what an IEP is. An Individualised Educational Plan is a plan or program developed to ensure that a person with a legally identified disability receives specialised instruction and related services.

That means that the person has to be professionally evaluated, eligibility needs to be decided by qualified professionals, a meeting is called with the IEP Team and sometimes with the parents and teachers.  Our team in Belgium, consists of the parents, the school's councillor, a governmental representative for our region and an Autism professional and mentor.  Services are then provided, progress is reported, the IEP is reviewed and the child is later reevaluated.

Some parents do not feel comfortable admitting to a disability.  I would hope that pride would not come before education.  Perhaps the thought of labelling someone is also stigmatic.  Carefully consider the true and I stress how important it is to be honest with ones self about being realistic in regards to the limitations of your children or students.  Do not allow expectation to cloud what is actually relevant.  This is a huge problem we face.

I'm thrilled to have an IEP for our kids.  Our youngest goes to a special Autism school because he's already been through the professional diagnosis and cannot attend a regular public school due to his disabilities.  Our oldest, also professionally identified can attend a regular public school.  However, it is very challenging and stressful for him. Homework, tests and lengthy assignments are a huge burden and bring on many symptoms of Autism.  Thanks to an IEP, not only can our child remain in a regular public school, but he can also get some help.

If you are certain that your child is intellectually capable of handling the basic educational academic syllabus and you really want them to remain in a regular public school, than an IEP might be just what you need to make that happen. 

The research I've done on homework has provided this basic outline:

Homework on an elementary level has proven to be ineffective.  However, homework given to older students, in their last few years of school has proven to be very effective.  That's it in a nut shell.

I have observed that much of the homework given my boys is just busy work.  As if the teacher is required to give them homework.  My youngest has been able to count to 100 before he could even start school, yet every week he comes home with a task of filling in missing numbers from 1-100.  Proving my point on homework just being busy work, at times.

My oldest can come home with hours of homework, doing drill after drill over an exercise that he fully understood and comprehended since the third problem.  After many tears, shouting matches and a hatred for school, we attended our next IEP meeting with the plan on minimising homework and we could do this because of the IEP.

We made an arrangement, begrudgingly with the juf/teacher to monitor his homework and when it was too much, to pull out the most difficult tasks and if he could do them successfully, he no longer needed to continue.  We also recommend, when administrating lengthy examinations, that they either give one sheet at a time or only part of the exam.  When handed a booklet of page after page of testing, our son would shut down before he even started, despite the fact that he could totally do the work.  Seriously, wouldn't this even be stressful for any kid?

Breaking down the work.  Concentrating the work.  Has been a huge help.  It is more work for the teachers and you will more than likely find it difficult to get them to work with you, but through an IEP, it is legally binding.  So stand your ground!  Fight for what you know is best for your child, not what is easiest for the teacher.

For teachers, I recommend the above steps as well as keeping an open mind.  As an educator it is detrimental to remain open minded and flexible.  It will be one hell of an example for your students to show them patience, kindness and an understanding that we are all very different and that some people require a different approach.  This is true intellectualism, which his what educators should embody.

Teaching kids with IEP's is not easy work.  However,  the instructor can also learn from the experience and apply that experience not only to another pupil with an IEP, but perhaps for a student without an IEP or even better still apply it to the class because you've seen it work.

We hope this edition has been helpful.  Feel free to share your stories in the comments.  Keep it sweet and simple as we have for you.

Next week, we'll take that homework research out of the nutshell and discuss ways to get your kids to get it finished.

The best of luck!

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