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Taming the Paper Dragon

It is beginning to look a lot like...IEP Season! While IEPs are reviewed annually, there are times of the year, cough-cough-end of the school year, that are much busier than others.

Avoid writing the IEP the night before it is due.

In the past, I was unbearable to be around in the spring. I waited until I had the go-ahead to begin. Everyone had to wait on my information. I complained and was disgruntled with the amount of work that I had to do. I often spent my spring break writing IEPs in the car if we traveled or by the computer if we stayed home. I was miserable and made everyone else’s life that way too.

Getting Cooperation

Once I grasped the idea that the IEP truly is meant to be a “team sport,” we could get a plan that worked. It would be best if you had your team on board.

The Plan

On the first day of school, I met with each special education teacher separately with my calendar in hand. I began with the teacher that had the majority of my students.

We had a list with the due dates of each student, then worked backward. We tried to schedule the IEP meetings two weeks before the due date to allow for parent absences, snow days, etc. My calendar would mark the tentative date of the meeting; then it would mark 30 days backward from there to note that I needed to write the IEP and check to see if everyone could still attend and send out invitations. Also, on that date, I gave classroom teachers a checklist to help them note their impressions of the student and his/her progress.

At the end of the planning meetings, we had a monthly plan. I compiled the list of students that I saw as a related service and then added the names of children whose primary service was speech. Placing all the names on a table, including their actual and tentative due dates, I sent the email to every related service, principal, and psychologist in the district. When you plan to hold 1-2 meetings per week, the team members get excited as the workload is manageable.

Carrying Out the Plan

Do you have any idea of the relief I had when I knew that my IEP was completed with 30 days to go? The day before, I gave the IEP a quick review before I printed it.

Since I had called each child’s parent to see if they could attend, I could also ask them about the IEP. I could go over what I had seen with their child, and I could then send a draft to the parent. I placed sticky notes on the parts that our state asked the parents to complete. Most of the parents remembered to bring in the papers, and we switched out my pre-printed empty IEP for their completed handwritten page.

The parents and teachers felt included. My meetings were shorter as there were no surprises. It was comforting to be a part of the team!

Mark the Calendar

My calendar is filled first with the tentative due dates with the actual due date written below. Then I go back one month to write when I call the parent to get their input for the IEP, send a quick checklist to the teacher to help her write her part of the IEP, and write my part of the IEP. I then move forward 2-3 days to plan when the draft version goes to the parent and teacher. I include the invitation to all of the team members.

I then place the draft in a box or file to await the meeting.

Avoid writing them at home.

When you plan IEP meetings in this way, you can portion how many per week that you will be attending. That means that you write the IEP in sections. I take just a portion to write either in between students or when the elementary building has a recess. I might take the first 10 minutes of lunch to write them. I liked being at school a full half-hour before we had to arrive. That gave me time to write portions and to be able to think about that child before the students and other teachers arrived.

Any Surprises?

Of course, you will need to factor in the variable of initial evaluation meetings and those resulting in IEP meetings. But you won’t miss an annual review if you have all the dates set on your phone, calendar, planner, etc.

When your school year is on paper and set on computer reminders, you will feel pride and relief. You can focus on therapy! Finally!

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