IEP. Those three letters make most parents cringe. My short experience with developing my son’s IEP has been anything but enjoyable. An IEP, Individualized Education Plan, is a document for a public school child who requires special education. My son has autism and the public schools deemed him eligible for an IEP based on his social pragmatic speech delay. After his IEP was developed and goals made, I went over it and decided I wanted to add a vision statement on the first page. I wanted whoever was reading his plan to see that he isn’t just a set of 8 goals to mark off and try to meet within a school year. He is a real child who has real parents that have real dreams and real hopes for him.
When I started thinking about what I want for my son in the future I included both short and long term visions. When James was diagnosed with autism in April 2017, my world momentarily crashed and burned. So many hopes that I had for him seemed to go out the window. It was an incredibly sad time for me. How can we think about what a happy future looks like when it seems so many doors were just slammed in our face? My husband and I have typical dreams for our kids. They will go to school, make friends, move out, go to college, get a job, get married, have kids, etc. But, now what? What is realistic? Will he be able to go to Catholic school like we had hoped? Will he ever be able to move out and live on his own? Will he go to college? What if he doesn’t have kids? Breathe, momma. I had to remind myself that going down the rabbit hole of “what if’s” does not do any good for anyone.
Here’s how I started.
Start with the present. What do you want your child to be able to do soon? Maybe it is something as simple as get dressed without assistance, or tackle potty training or sit at a restaurant without a meltdown.
Think ahead to teenage years. Do you hope your child will someday drive a car? Or maybe play sports in high school? Maybe you hope your child will go to school without the assistance of a classroom aide.
Adulthood. What do you hope for your child when they are your age? I want my son to find someone to spend his life with and make me a grandma. I want him to be able to live on his own.
Stay realistic and adjust. My son isn’t even 4 yet so my hopes and dreams are pretty standard at this point. He responds well to therapy and is doing well in school. He is “high functioning”. My husband, myself and the team that works with him acknowledge his limitations but we are working our tails off to overcome them. I try to be realistic about the fact that there might come a day when his limitations are set(ish) and we have to learn to live life around them. As he gets older it is only fair to rewrite and adjust my vision statement for him and hope that one day he can write it himself. It isn’t fair to my son to hope that he goes to a big university out of state (Fingers crossed for Mizzou! GO TIGERS!) when maybe he would prefer a small college in state or not a college at all. What does he want to do? What makes him happy? What does he see as a fulfilling life?
My son’s vision statement:
James will attend Catholic school starting in Kindergarten without the assistance of an aide or special education needs. James will function as a typical child, able to deal independently with novel situations, be flexible in his routines, interact appropriately with peers, and have a couple of best friends that he sees regularly in and outside of school. He will be potty trained by the end of his 2018-2019 Pre-K. He will participate in extra-curricular activities. He will ride the bus. He will learn how to self advocate. He will use his personality and spirit to develop leadership skills and become a strong contributor to his community. James will attend college and one day and live on his own without the daily assistance of his parents. James will find someone to spend his life with and have a family.
Do you have a vision statement for your child’s IEP?