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I had a really nice conversation with Ben’s IEP team leader Jen Pranger. She is a language pathologist with SSD and Ben’s teacher in the language center, and she has been largely responsible for the improvements he has made in language and communication as well as with his academics. Jen was not only aware of Ben’s two week camp at Miriam, she even spoke with the camp coordinator at length about Ben, his needs, his strengths, and areas of opportunities before the end of the school year. When we spoke recently she asked me how Ben liked camp and about the various things he had done there. Based on Ben’s camp experience I have discovered a couple of new things that we could implement into his routine at Point Elementary, where he attends during the school year and suggested them to Jen. “No problem. We can do that” was her response, and the one I hear most often.
I know from speaking to other parents in St. Louis as well as in other cities, and states for that matter, that not everyone has the same experience that we have had with our IEP team. One big difference I have noticed is that not all parents know what is available to them and their child and unless you have a good IEP leader, teacher, counselor, and sometimes even an advocate you may not get the information that you don’t even realize you need. The relationship I have forged with my IEP team members has been one of the key components to Ben’s success for three reasons: One, the team’s genuine desire to provide the best possible learning environment and tools possible for Ben (and others); two, continuous communication throughout the school year with Ben’s team, not just at IEP meetings; and, three, the teams knowledge and willingness to impart information about opportunities offered outside of the school to enhance Ben’s education. I think, if a team is unwilling to look outside of what is available at that particular school, that is a big red flag.
My son does not go to his home school in our district because it does not have a language center-based classroom, but thankfully another school in the district does. Unfortunately, this is not the case in all districts for all families but the cost of moving to a different school district or a private program is not merely prohibitive but for some impossible. It is my understanding that if it is determined that a child’s IEP specifies a need for a service in school that the school is required to provide it. This may be true, but if the child needs a language center-based program, for example, and the school district doesn’t have one then the IEP will reflect the next best thing and the school district will do what they can to provide it and that will have to be good enough. I can tell you from my point of view that ‘next best thing’ and ‘good enough’ doesn’t cut it when you are racing to get as much into and out of our child while their window of opportunity is still open.
Sally Oelzen, Center Director
SallyO Music Together
St. Louis, Missouri