My wife, Anna, has been a teacher for thirteen years. She’ll be starting her 14th year this Fall. She has taught pre-K, Kindergarten, and now 1st Grade. Pretty much every year she has taught she has had children requiring an IEP, and yet, in all her thirteen years of teaching, in all her thirteen years of being required to attend trainings, she was never once required to take a training on how to fill out or follow the IEP, or on special education inclusion. The one training she ever took on special education was a roundtable on autism she took only because of Daniel–and it was not only completely voluntary, but didn’t count at all toward her training hours.
Overall, Anna has probably learned far more about the IEP process by being a parent of an autistic child than she ever learned as a teacher. Certainly than she was ever taught by the district. It may be that other districts and other states do a better job of preparing their teachers for SpEd inclusion and understanding and following the IEPs, but it’s certainly not the case in Texas.
This is why parents need to really be on the ball when it comes to their child’s IEP. It is up to the parent to make sure everyone is following the IEP, and you simply cannot tell yourself that the teacher means well and that everyone is doing their jobs exactly as they are supposed to. The teacher has twenty other children in his or her class, the SpEd teacher is likely to be in an ARD meeting like the one you attended for your child rather than actually providing services, and the administration isn’t going around checking to make sure everyone is doing everything they should at all times.
So once you are finished with your ARD meeting and deciding what ought to be in your child’s IEP, your job has just begun. You will now have to periodically email the teacher to ask how your child’s progress is going, and definitely email the teacher your child’s modifications so they know that you know what your child’s IEP is–and this will also let them know that you expect them to follow it.
Let’s face it: we mostly expect everyone to do their job, and since we expect that, we don’t usually hover over everyone to make sure everyone is doing what they should. Of course, most people don’t actually understand what teaching entails–if they did, they would be shocked, appalled, and probably demand the overthrow of the entire system.
But since most people don’t, we mostly don’t pay much attention to what is going on in our schools, even when we have a child with special needs. But we really shouldn’t do that even with neurotypical children. We need to understand what is happening in our schools, getting rid of our romantic notions and ideological glasses that blind us to the realities of our public schools and the degree to which they too often fail our children–even when the teachers are trying their very hardest.