By Angel Pittman
It’s a commonly asked question; but, for me, it’s not the right question. As an educational advocate, I don’t simply attend children’s IEP meetings with their parents. I work with parents in the weeks and months leading up to an IEP meeting. An Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) is a legal document and serves as the blueprint for the education of a child with a disability for an entire year. I want to be sure that we have thoroughly explored every aspect of the student’s learning journey before joining the entire team of teachers to craft the educational plan
During our time together, I learn about their child and what is working and not working in their child’s current educational plan. I consult with the parent on their knowledge surrounding their child’s disability and, when needed, even supply helpful behavioral and organizational tools to ease the learning stress for children and their families. This help could be as simple as an organizational notebook for the parent or sensory tools for the child
Together we craft a vision statement for their child’s educational future. Using the vision statement as our roadmap, we explore their child’s strengths and identify all areas of need related to the child’s diagnosed or suspected disability. We dive deep into the student’s current performance, looking at grade cards, teacher comments, and test scores. We outline the child’s current level of performance with the curriculum and learning environment, their social and emotional behavior, their ability to function independently, and the current state of their health care and communication needs.
We look for gaps between what the child needs to succeed academically and the present educational goals set for the child. It’s a bit like an investigation— looking at the data, interviewing parents and child, researching effective services and supports, and brainstorming possible adequate accommodations. We develop objectives for the meeting, outlining what the parents want to be sure the other members of the IEP include that in their child’s educational plan for the coming year. We send this information to the IEP team before the meeting so that there are no surprises. Then, as the final step, we join the meeting together.
I’ve stated my goal as an educational advocate is “to train and equip parents to become better, more effective advocates for their children as I do things with parents, not for parents, because they know their child best.”
The best compliment I could get was one I received from a mom following an IEP meeting for her son. She said, “I noticed I spoke more in this meeting than in past meetings. Your work with me gave me more confidence.”
Angel Pittman is a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel serving in Miami, Fla., as educational advocate. Learn more about her ministry at www.cbf.net/pittman.
The CBF Offering for Global Missions makes possible the long-term presence of CBF field personnel like Angel. Support for the Offering extends lasting hope and loving hospitality to people living in poverty around the world. Give online today at www.cbf.net/OGM.