The Individualized Education Plan: A Valuable Road Map

Article excerpt

Parents play an important role in the development of their child's Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Working together with their child's IEP team, parents help develop annual education-related goals for their children with hearing loss to ensure a meaningful educational experience.

Four parents of children with hearing loss, aged preschool through high school, share their experiences preparing for and participating in the IEP meeting.

Preschool

By Jennifer Apffel

My daughter, Grace, was born with severe-to-profound deafness, which was diagnosed at age 1. My mother-in-law, Kathy Apffel, works at an area elementary school and contacted the speech teacher for resources. We spent the first two months making phone calls to request help. We also met with Wendy Keedy of Parent Links, who sent information and discussed our concerns for Grace.

We also enrolled Grace in Infant Circle, an early intervention program offered through the Riverside County Office of Education (Calif.). Wendi Stukey, a county representative, and Leslie Hiring, a teacher, came to our home for a "parent interview" and later helped us to develop an Individualized Family Service Plan, known as an "Early Start IFSP." At first, we decided Grace should receive home visits once a week using sign language.

Our insurance did not cover hearing aids, so Grace was fitted with a trial pair of hearing aids through an Infant Circle referral to the county at age 19 months. When Grace did not respond to the hearing aids, my husband. Dave, and I did additional research and decided that a cochlear implant was the best thing for Grace. She received an implant at age 2.

The Infant Circle Program started a pre-preschool class twice a week, and Grace joined the class shortly after her cochlear implant surgery. Class entailed games and crafts to help the children learn vocabulary and language, parent and sibling participation and a 20-minute individualized speech therapy session. Grace also received home visits once a week until she turned 3, when we transitioned to an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) with Hemet Unified.

IEP Preparation

When preparing for the IEP meeting, Grace's speech therapist, Elon Parker, compiled her test results to show her progress, and we talked extensively about areas in which Grace could improve - vocabulary, speech clarity and familiar social interactions such as "How are you?" or "What's your name?". I also watched and listened to Grace at home and started to make lists of words and phrases Grace understood and said, as well as her physical, mental and emotional needs. Dave and I discussed our concerns and goals for Grace's education, which included learning spoken language.

We also sought the guidance of several professionals to learn more about the programs available in our area. Infant Circle staff explained the various options throughout Riverside county. We spoke with Marsha Athan, the Riverside County special education coordinator, who recommended the pre-school program at Katherine Finchy Elementary in Palm Springs.

Along the way, we met several preschool children with implants who were highly capable and confident understanding conversation and talking, so we felt it was possible for Grace to "catch up" on the speech and language skills she had missed as an infant. Dave and I discussed our priorities and came to complete agreement before the IEP meeting because we wanted to approach it as a team.

The IEP Meeting

Because Grace turned 3 during summer break, the school district, Hemet Unified (HUSD), did not start preparations for Grace's IEP meeting until school began in the fall. Our first meeting was scheduled for the end of September 2005, so Grace continued classes with Infant Circle in the interim. HUSD coordinated the meeting, which included Grace's teachers and speech therapist from Infant Circle, representatives from the school and county, and Dave and me. …