Today is the last day of school in my area. It is my 37th “last day of school” as an SLP working with students use who AAC (SWUAAC). Congress enacted the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (Public Law 94-142) in 1975. Since I started working 1977, I wonder how many IEP meetings I’ve sat through? How many times have I sat on the “school-side” of the table? How many “pre-IEP meetings” have I been asked to attend in order to coordinate what we were all going to say and do in anticipation of a difficult upcoming IEP meeting?
In 1988, I switched sides of the IEP table. Now, when I go to an IEP meeting, I’m going as a private SLP hired by the parents. I feel like one of those lawyers who advertise for you to hire them because they used to work for such-and-such organization (e.g., IRS, insurance company, etc.) and they know the strategies of that organization.
It does help to understand the perspective of everyone sitting around the IEP table. It is useful to understand the pressures placed on school-based SLPs to meet the needs of a very diverse caseload. And it is equally valuable to appreciate the challenges faced by parents as they navigating through the rules, regulations, and restrictions of all the various systems (e.g., school, legal, funding, medical) that provide supports for their child.
I was thrilled to be part of a recent IEP meeting that demonstrated that the “I” in IEP still means, “individualized.” At the beginning of the school year, they voiced their inexperience with this particular device and the atmosphere became stressed after the SLP made comments like, “I don’t know this device;” “I would like to see all of the students using an iPad app;” and “I prefer to use PCS® symbols and Boardmaker®.” Frankly, I was worried that the “I” in IEP was the pronoun “I” – meaning the SLP! Thankfully, my worries were unfounded!
Did it take them some extra time to make additional visual supports? YES. Did they have to get additional training on the device? YES. Did they have to redesign some of their curriculum? YES. But these “extras” were never in question because this educational support team believed in individualized AAC systems, individualized visual supports, and individualized educational adjustments and programming!