Having spent the last 26 years in education, Jennifer Krumins, MEd, knows a thing or two about IEPs. This year, she traveled from Canada to share the importance of IEPs and some key takeaways for parents with children on the spectrum.
Jennifer, thank you so much for being a part of the conference again this year. Why are you so passionate about talking to parents about the power of IEPs?
Oh boy, what a question. Well I started my workshop by saying I’ve spent my career in education and have experience as a parent – I hate IEPs, I really do. I hate writing them! But yet, that being said, they are so incredibly important! They give direction to a person’s life. Without an IEP, time will pass, opportunities will pass, and we don’t have a sense of what we could be doing to capitalize on moments when a kid can learn. For me, an IEP keeps you focused and ready to teach at any given moment because you know where you want to go.
If you could pass one important point from your session on to someone who could not at the conference, what would it be?
A big message I wanted to give today is that parents play such an incredibly important role. It’s imperative parents take an active role in their child’s education, particularly if that child had special needs because it’s not up to the school; it is a joint responsibility. I have learned in my years as a parent and an educator that autism requires a village around a child. No one person has all the information about that child so when everyone comes together and shares their perspective, we get the whole picture. As far as a takeaway about the conference, I would want to say that coming to this conference gives you a chance to step away from the day-to-day and it is time so wisely invested. It energizes and refreshes you. Well you’ll always go home tired, but you come home ready to dive in with a renewed energy.
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The New Year is here and with it comes those New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions are the goals we set for ourselves for the upcoming year – try to eat healthier, save more money, make time to get to the gym.
This might also be a good time for families to reflect on what goals they may have for their children with autism. I frequently get asked the question, “Do you see this as something my child can do within one year?” Your child’s educational team also has to make this determination when writing goals for the Individualized Education Program.
In thinking about setting goals, take a page from the IEP guidelines and try to make them SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented, and time-bound. Instead of, “I want my child to communicate more with me,” think about what is the most important thing they learn to communicate. Instead of “I want my child to read”, maybe “I want my child to read 10 words, or 20 words,” or whatever makes the most sense.
As with any goal, in order to get somewhere, you have to know where you are at. It’s difficult to measure progress if you don’t have a baseline measurement to know what you are comparing to. Additionally, it’s hard to know whether the teaching you are doing is having the impact you want, without occasionally measuring the progress. That’s why data-driven decisions are so crucial. If you have an idea in your mind about what kind of goal you want to work towards achieving with your son or daughter, stop and take a measurement of what their current skill is in this area.
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