Being the Nag.
Don't we get enough of that at home? Nagging our children to do their homework, to do their chores, to behave in a way that reflects well on us as parents...after all, it's all about us, lol.
Yeah, we do get enough of that. And, we probably need to do less, because in the end, having a good, honest, and respectful relationship with your child is far more important than a clean room or straight As. Trust me on this.
But one area we cannot, and should not, stop nagging is with school districts, particularly around accommodations and services that are promised but not delivered, or followed.
As my colleague (and now employee) Rachel Roth will attest, it's just amazing how many goals on IEPs are developed, and then never followed -- no milestones entered, no reliable end of year summary, and if the goal didn't work (for whatever reason), they are often just dropped the next year.
If you've seen this on your child's IEP and think it's just you -- think again. It happens all the time.
Here are some guidelines you can follow to learn to love being a nag:
- Remember that ALL goals should be SMART:
- Specific -- what skills or behaviors will increase or decrease?
- Measurable -- by how much will these behaviors increase or decrease, and who will measure them using what metrics?
- Actionable -- is this goal actionable, in that there are available resources and time, and are they defined? Who is responsible? (And, it should not be YOU or YOUR CHILD -- all goals on an IEP should have ONE teacher or administrator responsible.)
- Realistic -- is this a realistic goal? For example, if the school 'decides' that they can bring your child up from a 4th grade reading level to a 10th grade in one year, you may want to question this decision.
- Timebound -- this is part and parcel of an IEP in so far as there should be notations on progress at regular intervals.
- For this last item, ask that milestone DATES are added to the IEP, and then mark these on YOUR calendar, and contact the district for updates at that time. If you trust the district to give these to you informally, that's great. If not, call an interim IEP at each milestone to get progress.
- If there is not enough progress, or if there is none, then it makes no sense to keep that goal as is -- the goal needs to be rewritten to accommodate the failure. There's an old saying in product management -- Nine women cannot make a baby in one month. If timelines were well thought out to begin with, they should stick, which means more time needs to be added to that goal, which means it may need to carry over to the next year, and if not completed in a timely manner then you're past graduation with unmet goals, and that means that the school district can be claimed to owe you COMPENSATORY EDUCATION. Think services and goals, not timelines here. Their clock may be ticking. Your child's isn't. An IEP is a contract. When contracts are broken or not fulfilled, there are consequences. Compensatory education is that consequence.
- Think ahead. What skills will your child need in future grades? A mistake we see is to focus too much on academics, and too little on social and executive functioning areas, and later too little focus on independent living skills. We are raising adults, here, not forever students. IDEA clearly states that the end goal is to develop a young adult 'prepared for post-secondary life' -- which may include academics in college, but includes far more than that. Don't skip group work, WORK on group work. Don't hide your child from social situations, WORK on them. Don't let the school provide too much 'hand over hand' with regards to executive functioning, have them TEACH executive functioning. I don't want others fishing for my kids, I want them to learn HOW to fish!
- Get creative. "We can't do that" is code for "we don't want to do that". If your child actually needs something, and you can prove it and aren't totally off your rocker (sorry, there are a few...), then your child should get it. But think out of the box. And do expect that there WILL be things you should be providing for your kiddo, because more help and support all around will develop a better outcome for him/her.
- Don't lose your sense of humor or your compassion. Districts DO work hard, and DON'T have adequate funding, so there's no need to be punishing or mean. Push, yes, but focus on the goals.