Special needs

The overwhelming process of filling out your child's IEP

Why creating your child's first Individual Education Plan (IEP) can feel like a daunting task.

Anchel-special-needs-parenting

Now that Syona has started kindergarten, Anchel must fill out her first IEP. Photo: Anchel Krishna

With Syona in junior kindergarten this year, we knew our family would have another milestone moment—our first Individual Education Plan (IEP).

According to Ontario’s Ministry of Education website, “an IEP is a written plan describing the special education program and/or services required by a particular student. It identifies learning expectations that are modified from or alternative to the expectations given in the curriculum policy document for the appropriate grade and subject or course, and/or any accommodations and special education services needed to assist the student in achieving his or her learning expectations.”

In layman terms, it’s the document that many of us parents rely on to ensure our kids have the supports and accommodations they need to learn.

Last week, when the principal sent home a letter asking us to list Syona’s strengths and individual needs, I took my time before returning the document. Since it was our first time dealing with an IEP, I reached out to my favourite online parent group (for kids with neurological disorders) and asked for advice. The parents shared some great ideas, suggesting we include the encouragement of Syona’s cognitive development, items that lead to increased independence, and activities that will improve her daily living (such as feeding herself, getting dressed, etc.).

When it came time to put pen to paper, it was a daunting task. As the parent of a child with special needs, I’m often asked to list Syona’s strengths and needs. The reason behind this is that it gives Syona’s team a more holistic view into who she actually is, beyond her cerebral palsy.

But for some reason, writing down this particular set of Syona’s strength and needs felt more significant. Entering the school system is one of those milestones that can be great, but also exceptionally exhausting for parents of kids with special needs. You work really hard to be collaborative with a resource-stripped system in order to provide your child with what she needs to successfully learn. I felt like this list had to lay the foundation for Syona’s entire year at school. It seemed too big a task.

So, I did what I always do in these types of situations. I sat down on the floor with Syona and Dilip and we talked, while I wrote everything down. We didn’t think too far into the future, just about what was right in front of us for the short term. In the morning, like every other mom in my situation, I pulled out the paper and added yet another thing about Syona’s many strengths. There is no doubt in my mind that my girls strengths far outweigh her needs.

Does your child have an IEP? 

Follow along as Anchel Krishna shares her experiences as mother to Syona, an extraordinary toddler with cerebral palsy. Read all of Anchel’s Special-needs parenting posts and follow her on Twitter @AnchelK.