Saturday, October 23, 2010

Initial IEP Experience and Goals

The night before our first IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting, I was up late looking through my list of goals for Matthew wondering if they were too high or too low. I used my developmental milestone checklists and books such as 'Gross Motor Skills in Children with Down Syndrome' to help me look 12+ months into the future and get an idea of where Matthew would be (might be) developmentally. I skimmed through a few chapters in 'From Emotions to Advocacy' to cram whatever knowledge I could about writing measurable IEP goals into my tired brain.

I wanted the perfect IEP for Matthew's first year in preschool. The IEP is a legally binding document that describes all of special education services Matthew will receive. It includes details of services such as therapies, academic and behavioral goals, percentage of time in the classroom versus time in individual therapy sessions, and progress reports from teachers and therapists. I wanted to ensure Matthew received all the services/therapies he needed, to learn lots and make new friends during his first year in preschool.

School Records Binder
The IEP Meeting
I walked into the meeting with Matthew's school records binder, my list of goals, a dozen bagels and a smile. The binder had photos of Matthew on the cover to show everyone at the meeting and make it easy to keep in mind the person whom this IEP was for. The dozen bagels were for myself and the people who would be a big part of my son's development for the next 12 months. He'll be in school from 7:45am to 10:45am, Mondays to Thursdays. And I hoped my smile masked my tiredness.

The school administrator, teacher, speech therapist (ST) and occupational therapist (OT) at school were at the meeting. Matthew's OT, developmental therapist and service coordinator from the Early Intervention (EI) program were also present. I invited the latter three.

The meeting started with a review of Matthew's present levels of academic achievement and functional performance. I loved how the section about his strengths was worded.
Matthew is a very bright little boy with a great sense of humor who loves learning and has a great attention span. At this time, he is functioning at age-appropriate levels in the areas of cognitive development, social-emotional development and gross motor development. His mother reports that he's very visual and pairing objects with pictures or words is very beneficial to him. He learns well having tasks broken down and with lots of repetition.

IEP Goals
His IEP goals were written based on my concerns in each of the developmental areas, specific to Matthew. After all, it is individualized but out of curiousity, I do wonder how similar or dissimilar they are to others' goals.

We have 3 annual goals for gross motor skills.
1. Matthew will propel tricycle 50 feet on level ground including 90 degree turns on 3/4 data days.

2. Matthew will place both feet on 4 inch beam and take 3-5 steps on 3/4 trials for 3 data days.

3. Matthew will go up and down 3-5 multiple steps without hand support (but holding on to rail) on 3-6 inch high steps for 3/4 data days.

We have 1 annual goal for self-help skills (adaptive behavior).
1. Matthew will increase his ability to put on/remove loose clothing without assistance for 10 consecutive data days per benchmark.
One of the benchmarks/ measurable objectives, just as an example, is:
Matthew will put on his jacket and/or backpack with less than 2 physical prompts for assistance for 10 consecutive data days.

We have 3 annual goals for speech with several benchmarks for each goal.
1. Matthew will increase overall speech intelligibility by producing age-expected sounds in the initial position of target CV (consonant-vowel), CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) and CVCV words contained in repeated carrier phrases (my ___, I ___, etc) during structured therapy activities in 8 out of 10 opportunities over 3 consecutive data days.

Speech goal #2 is similar except the focus is on VC (vowel-consonant) and VCVC sounds/words. And speech goal #3 is to work on two- and three-syllable words since he currently drops syllables.

We have 3 annual goals for language with several benchmarks for each goal (benchmarks not listed in this blog post).
1. Matthew will increase his expressive language skills by independently using 2-4 word utterances to answer target "what' (what doing, what have), "who" and "where" questions regarding a one-sentence story or pictured actions and objects during structured language activities for 8 out of 10 opportunities over 3 consecutive data days.

2. Matthew will increase his expressive and receptive language skills by demonstrating understanding and independently using the following modifiers, descriptive concepts and unit vocabulary words, including but not limited to: in, on, under, over, on top, next to, big, little, tall, short, long, fat, new, old, hot, cold, not/no, bumpy, hard, soft, happy, sad, mad, night, day, etc by pointing to the appropriate picture when named and by saying the appropriate concept word to describe pictures during structured therapy activities for 8 out of 10 opportunities over 3 consecutive data days.

3. Matthew will increase his receptive language skills by following two-step, unrelated directions during structured therapy tasks for 8 out of 10 opportunities over 3 consecutive data days.

We have 2 annual goals for fine motor skills.
1. Matthew will increase fine motor skills by demonstrating independent completion of designated manipulative activities such as using tongs, clipping clothespins, stringing beads 3/4 trials.

2. Matthew will increase fine motor skills by using one hand to manipulate and one hand to stabilize while completing table activities (turning single pages of books, stabilizing paper while marking on it, cutting with scissors) on 3/4 trials.

We have 1 annual goal for feeding.
1. Matthew will increase his feeding skills by taking 5 bites of foods, chewing, and swallowing them, from a variety of tastes, textures, and temperatures using appropriate utensils when necessary in 80% of opportunities for 3 consecutive data days.

The Perfect IEP
The meeting went well. I felt really good about the goals during the meeting. However, in the evening after meeting, self-doubt and questions loomed. Are these goals sufficient? Are they set too low? Is the IEP perfect? Good enough?

I finally came to terms with myself and let go of my self-induced stress a few days after the IEP meeting. Perfection is relative. I decided not to stress over what we had on paper. These were good goals. I had heard many glowing reviews about the school's preschool program. This was a good start. Besides, amendments can be made during the year if needed. And what good is a perfect IEP on paper if it's implemented poorly?

Matthew was supposed to start school after his birthday but due to the tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy scheduled on October 26, we decided to keep him home and away from possible bad bugs he might pick up at school. Getting sick would potentially postpone his surgery. He'll be going to school as soon as he recovers from the surgery.

Related posts:
Speech and Language Evaluation for Preschool
1st Screening for Preschool
1st Staffing Metting & New Diagnoses


RK said...

As I would have expected, you were right on top of things. It sounds like as close to a "perfect" IEP meeting as you can have.

Some of those goals, motor especially, are miles ahead of where we are, which doesn't surprise me. Matthew is Mr. Motor! :o) Overall, Matthew sounds like he is doing exceptionally well... as I have seen myself!

Stop worrying and enjoy that boy. He's already surpassing so much!

Ria said...

Thanks RK! We do enjoy him lots.
:-) As does his little sister. I think I'm just genetically wired to be a worrywart. haha!

To Love Endlessly said...

fantastic post! thank you for sharing this information and your resources. We are in the process of transitioning from IFSP to IEP s this is REALLY helpful. THANKS!!

Monica Crumley said...

His IEP looks very good to me, although I have an "untrained" eye. You are a very "on top of it" Mom and very active in Matthew's learning, which won't stop just because he goes to school 3 hours a day. My only question, and maybe I missed it... is there nothing about toileting? I should go back and re-read... anyway, it looks like a good set of goals for Matthew. I'll be second-guessing myself, too, I'm sure, but no matter what, our boys will do great. And IEPs are not written in stone.

Ria said...

@Patti, Glad I could help. :-) All the best with your transition!

@Monica, you didn't miss toilet training goals. We didn't set any on his IEP. While we have started working on that at home, we haven't been pushing it actively. I wanted to prioritize working on other skills that would be required when he does go potty like taking his pants off, recongizing he has to go and letting someone know, etc. My thought was I'd add that in later when I feel he's ready to go full steam ahead with the toilet training.
And yes, JM and Matthew will do great in school, no matter what and also partly because they have wonderful mommies! :-)