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Friday, February 02, 2007

A must read for anyone dealing with IEPs and other fun stuff

I have to say that Charles Fox and company over at the Special Education Law Blog have once again given a voice to an issue that is critical to address for the well being of all children with disability attending school. The use of negative labeling and loaded language reflected in IEPs (Individual Development Plans) demonstrates and propagates a lack of understanding into the behavior of disabled children and people who communicate and act differently.

Two months ago in our final IEP discussion we experienced tension over words used in it that negatively labeled Ellie. We were concerned that any school staff member reading Ellie's IEP in order to understand her would instead be set up to assume she was misbehaving and a difficult child. At the end of the day most of the language was changed because we refused to sign it until it was. That conversation did not go so well - let's just leave it at that...

Here is an excerpt from the Fox post which ends with a practical check list I wish all teachers and school staff had tattooed on their arms:

Avoid use of all charged language like manipulative and intentional. It is rare that children with special needs have a plan and a design that they are following through on to upset the class. The adjectives do nothing to further the discussion and tend to polarize the parties.

I wish Charles had written this a couple of months earlier before we had that difficult meeting. It's a great post and you can read it here.


Anonymous said...

It's great that you are seeing this so clearly at the start of your educational experience. As a parent of 2 young adults who have passed through the special education system, I found that watching the language and intention of the IEP required constant vigilence. And I never let me kids come to the meeting (contrary to advice from the school) because I never wanted them to hear that negative, self-esteem-ruining discussion. Best of luck as you navigate through the very flawed special education process. As you have noted in previous posts, what happens in that room does not necessarily reflect how individual teachers will perceive and respond to your child. But, nonetheless, it's nice to have the paperwork in order.

Angela said...

I am getting anxious -- Jack's IEP meeting is Feb. 25th. I never feel prepared enough...thank you for the link!

Kathryn said...


Good luck at the meeting. Hopefully they will surprise us all and be great. The Special Education Law Blog is such a huge resource - glad you found it.


Maureen said...

Kathryn, I heard a story at church on Sunday that made me think of Ellie. Please excuse the lablels, they are part of the story and not meant to be negative.

A young girl of 6, who had never spoken, had been labeled as "retarted" and unteachable. Her parents found a teacher for her and in the discussion, the parents said at the first meeting that the girl was having a quiet day - and that the teacher didn't want to see her on one of her "wild" days. The teacher thought that she did want to see her on a wild day.

The teacher began teaching the girl and every day they would walk to the park. As they walked, the teacher would sing hymns and the girl would skip in time to the music. Even on rainy days, the routine never varied. The routine would be moved inside and the teacher would sing hymns and play the piano. One day two years later later, as the teacher was playing the piano, the hymn was sung by two voices.

I'm sure I didn't tell the story as well as our minister did on Sunday - but you get the idea. Made me all teary. Keep up the good work for Ellie - you show them Kathryn!


Kathryn said...

Maureen - that's a great story! And thanks for the encouragement - every little bit helps!!! It's a good point too - if one has higher expectations amazing things can happen.

I hope you are doing great. I will check in on your site tonight.