Our daughter has an IEP because we got
her tested in Russian when we adopted her. She tested as being LD in
the native language, so it was never a question of "Oh, she's just
struggling because she is an English language learner." I highly
recommend anyone adopting a school age child have the test in his or
her native language ASAP. On the other hand, I'm not so sure how much
good the IEP is doing. The school does not know what to do with a child
who didn't have any education or hear a word of English until almost
age 9. She goes to resource room where the teacher works with small
groups to help them with the day's lessons, but our daughter has such
a lack of global knowledge and lack of vocabulary that just learning
"today's lesson" isn't that big a help.
From a message of an adoptive parent
An IEP (Individual Educational Plan) is a tool, an instrument, a
method, not a goal in and out of itself. An IEP is created for children
who cannot benefit (at least temporally) from a mainstream educational
process due to certain individual differences (developmental, neurological,
cognitive, emotional, sensory, etc.). As any other instrument, IEP
is as efficient as the one who uses this tool. IEP is also a legal
document: it is an obligation, a contract assumed by the school; once
accepted, it must be implemented and maintained until officially removed.
Although flexible (it can and should be periodically adjusted and
modified), it must be followed exactly, and failure to act as this
IEP prescribes, constitutes a legal liability for the school.
Structurally, IEP consists of a child's placement determination,
description of services to be provided, and remedial methodology to
be applied. The available placements range from the least restrictive
(general education) to most restrictive (homebound, or hospital-bound,
or placement in residential specialized school). Services include, but
not restricted to: speech/language therapy, occupational therapy, physical
therapy, counseling, adaptive physical education, etc. In addition,
IEP includes other components, such as classroom modification, test
accommodations, behavior plan, etc.
Now, what can be done by parents to insure that their
child's IEP is effective?
The effectiveness of any IEP is firmly based on three "must have"
- The right remedial methodology
- The intensity of remedial input
- The continuity of remedial efforts
If you child goes to Resource Room to get "help with
the day's lessons" - it is not remediation, and this IEP is not
worth the paper it is written on. Our children require specific methods
of teaching, called "remedial methodology." An example
could be an Orton-Gillingham
based approach, such as the
Wilson Reading System. It's the research-based reading and writing
program that uses a structured, sequential, multi-sensory, language-based
remedial approach. Fluency and comprehension of reading/writing skills
are emphasized in WRS, and the criterion-based assessment, built into
the program, tracks the student's progress. The reading component of
the WRS places heavy emphasis on accurate word decoding. Reading comprehension
skills include summarizing, paraphrasing, predicting, and drawing inferences.
In this method, spelling is taught through specially arranged dictating
in which students practice encoding spoken language.
Most IA children need remediation in their cognitive-academic
language, and the WRS provides explicit instruction in rules of
the language necessary for comprehending, remembering, and communicating
academic and social information.
The multi-sensory nature of remedial methods is very important:
the instructor's teaching methods have to be action-oriented; with
auditory, visual, and kinesthetic elements reinforcing each other
for optimal learning. From the behavioral reinforcement perspective,
with most Orton-Gillingham based approaches, IA students experience
a high degree of success and gain confidence as well as skills: learning
becomes a rewarding and happy experience. It is important that remedial
approach, such as the Wilson Reading System, provides not only direct
remediation in basic academic skills, but is concurrently aimed at
developing organizational skills, work habits, and regulation of attention.
The intensity of remediation is the next crucial requirement:
One or two hours a week will not make any difference; an intense input
means at least two hours a day of remedial work.
The existing research in cognitive psychology and remediation, as
well as the best practice in special education, indicate that the
"incessant input" and "regular reviewing" are
the basic conditions for remediation; therefore, the continuity
of remedial efforts is a necessary component of an IEP effectiveness.
The effectiveness of IEP depends also on the preparedness of service
providers. These professionals have to be familiar with the specificity
of our children and their educational needs. In many cases the parents
would provide such an education, bringing to the school different
publications related to international adoptees.
An IEP is created by a team of school professionals. By law, the
parent of the child for whom an IEP has to be created is a member
of this team. The parent has absolutely the same rights and responsibilities
as any other member of an IEP team and may introduce his/her suggestions,
recommendations, and rejections during the creation and implementation
of their child's IEP. For example, a parent may request an application
of any additional methodologies recommended, by an external psycho-educational
evaluator. While other members of an IEP team have many IEPs on their
hands and this is their routine job, a parent has only one IEP to
worry about, and this is the remedial plan for your child, not just
a "student": Thus parents should not delegate the responsibility
of selecting what's necessary for their child at school, but be motivated
to get the most out of their IEPs. An outside paid or volunteer specialist
(a child advocate), can be a representative on their behalf during
an IEP creation process; the parents can and should monitor the execution
of the plan.