FRUA National Education Chair, Pat Gerke has a Masters in Counseling and has worked in the field of Developmental Disabilities for over 25 years in a wide range of specialty areas including adult services (vocational and residential), healthcare, advocacy and spirituality/inclusion. She teaches two courses each spring related to Disabilities, at Rutgers University and she and her husband Jay adopted their two children, Matthew and Iryna, in Ukraine. This is her summer message to FRUA members:
Summer is upon us. While we all prepare for a much-deserved break, this is a good time, when the pressure is off, to consider the IEP. Have you, like so many of us, had to prepare for your child's IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting or is it still ahead? How DO you prepare? Do you go into it loaded with ammunition like you are armed and dangerous? Do you look forward to discussing your child's present level of performance - or do you dread it?!
if you are like many FRUA members, the end of the school year and the spring IEP meeting can be filled with anxiety and worry. Self-doubt about what to expect or ask for can cloud judgment about what a child needs or is capable of achieving. Its is not too late to think through how things went and to plan for how you and your child will approach the fall semester. Summer is the time to ask questions, talk with other FRUA parent members and consult with experts to learn more. And it can also mean more time for you to be with and observe your child away from formal learning environments.
Remember, YOU are an equal member of an IEP team. Without you there really isn't a team! Get to know your child's PLEP, rights, strengths AND needs! Be ready to collaborate and compromise. But know what is non-negotiable as well! Always remember, YOU ARE the expert on your child, no one else!
FRUA National Education Chair