In This Episode:
This is a special interview episode with Beth from The IEP Lab!
Welcome to Episode 74 of Dyslexia Devoted and today we’re interviewing an expert about the IEP process.
Show notes: parnelloeducation.com/episode74
This Episode's Topics:
- What all parents should know about the IEP process
- What to do if you are denied an IEP
- Ways to get support during the IEP process
Resources Mentioned in this Episode:
- Beth from The IEP Lab
- Parent IEP Lab Podcast
- SLD Eligibility Series
- Get the Dyslexia Devoted Newsletter
- Book a Parent or Educator Coaching Session
- 3 Keys to Success with Dyslexia FREE Masterclass
Connect with Lisa Parnello:
Hello and welcome to dyslexia devoted the podcast dedicated to building awareness, understanding and strategies to help those with dyslexia. I'm your host, Lisa Parnello, dyslexia therapist and founder of Parnello education services. Join me as we dive into today's episode of dyslexia devoted. Hello friends and welcome to episode 74 of dyslexia devoted. This week I have something extra special for you. This week, I did an interview with Beth from the IEP lab to help you learn even more about the IEP process. Because while I've done many, many IEP s over the years, Beth has become an expert in that just like I am an expert in dyslexia. So check out my interview with Beth starting now. Hi, Beth, I'm so glad that you were joining us today. I had such a great chat with you as I just finished recording doing one for your podcast. So I would love if you can tell my audience all about you and your amazing background helping parents through the IEP process because that is something that I've talked about a couple different times on the episode, but you are more of an expert than I am on the IEP process. And I would love for them to hear about you. Awesome,
thank you so much for having me. I so appreciate it. And I just love what you're doing as well. So my name is Beth Gleeson Feld, I am an Occupational Therapist by training. And I actually started out my first career as an adaptive horseback riding instructor. So I had a ton of experience with kids, and especially with parents. And when I became an occupational therapist, I started in like, the outpatient realm. So people would bring me their kids or I would go into homes, and again, work super closely with parents. And when I switched into working in schools as an OT, all of a sudden, the whole system shifted, and I was like, What the heck is happening? So that first year, because we're medical professionals, right, like, I go to like a subsidiary of the middle medical school to get my degree. And so when I came in and saw all of the jargon, and all of the even the culture was different, like, why are we calling each other friends? Like, that's just such a weird thing to me. I was like, Well, this is really weird. And my first couple IEPs, I turned to the parents in the meeting, and I was like, okay, so what do you want me to work on? And they looked at me like, I was nuts. Like, why are you asking me, you're the person who's supposed to know all of this stuff. And so I had a very steep learning curve in the beginning, as I went along, in the years, of course, like 80 meetings a year, got it under my belt, you know, I was on all of the teams from like, preschool child find all the way up until 1821 program because I was in a district who doubled in size in the five years that I was there, and a couple different districts too. But I started to see these themes. And I would have, you know, 20 meetings or so with the same team, same special education teachers, same speech therapists, same everybody. But we would come out of those meetings, sometimes, like electric with implementing this IEP and just like super jazzed about doing it, and then other meetings just fell flat. And I was like, what is happening, it's the same staff, it's got to be something about how the parent is approaching the process. So I started to really pay attention about what was happening. And I found that there was a certain understanding that the successful parents had about the system about resources outside of the system, like your podcast, like you as as a parent advocate who's helping parent advocates. And I was like, Oh, my gosh, that's it. So you know, there are so many times where I wanted to pull parents aside and say, Oh, my gosh, this just got granted to somebody three hours ago, because they asked this way, or this is what this means. Or let me give you a hint about what dramas happening behind the scenes. And so that's where my podcast the parent IEP lab came from was those little asides that we don't have time to do during the school day, but it was like, let me explain this, because it's actually kind of technical. So that's what what came to be. And now I help parents specifically, prepare for their IEP meetings and really decide they're the things that they're really wanting to focus on, and making that vision statement, and all of those things leading up to the meeting so that they can really take advantage of that meeting and get the most from it.
That is fantastic. And I know there are so many of my listeners who are going to be so eager to hear the rest of your answers for some of these questions I have ready for you. So the biggest one I think of is what is the one thing you wish way more parents understood about the IEP process?
I think my one thing is that the IEP document is supposed to be dynamic, meaning that it is not this huge, stressful, it shouldn't be right. It shouldn't be this huge, stressful experience to go into that IEP meeting and think that you only have this one shot to get the IEP Rite Aid for the the next calendar year and that you can't change it in between. That's absolutely not the case with really successful parent advocates. They know that they develop a relationship with a team, even if it's tricky. You can still develop a working relationship with that team. We work on that a lot and that Through that relationship, you can change things, you can tweak things, you can point things out, that they might not realize that they're doing, that's super wrong. But if you have that relationship, you can actually make a huge difference not only for your kid in the IEP, but also for the whole system in general. It's like a grassroots thing. So I think that that IEP document, being dynamic being changeable in between is just the one thing that I feel parents get stuck on. And that makes that IEP meeting stress go from zero to 100. And if you realize it's a long game, and it can be done in these little micro advocacies, I think some of that stress steps down a little bit, which is what we all need.
Absolutely. I'm all for a work smarter, not harder kind of approach to things. So what is one thing that you find is a really common struggle for parents going through this IEP process? Well, I think
we already talked about this a little bit, but it's the terminology, it's that the system is not parent friendly at all. And so that's why I try to attack that with breaking things down, right. But I think the more and more I get into parent coaching, and going through these experiences with parents, is how emotional it can get, and how, how slow the system is to you're like, my kid is struggling right now. And you guys are talking about taking another nine weeks of progress without doing anything different. And I think that emotional control is a so important. I hear people say often, I just get so emotional in those meetings that I can't even think, well, if you're not able to be able to move past some of that, and have some strategies to come in, in a more leveled state, you know, bring somebody with you, there's all kinds of tips to combat this, right. But if you're not able to come into that meeting, and really sit down and participate, then that sucks, and it's not going to be effective, either. So that's probably the biggest thing that I see. That's really hard to work through. But I think it's really important to focus on that piece.
Absolutely. So in my role, when I was at lower school director over at a school for kids with dyslexia, I sat in on so many IEP meetings, and it was heartbreaking seeing the moms burst into tears, and even a few dads, when their tough, shell got cracked. But that does make it really challenging to keep moving forward with the meeting, when you're so upset, you don't even know what to ask for. And really knowing ahead of time of I need to be a cool head. Because if I don't, them seeing me cry is not actually going to get me more services. And it's one where it's really hard because I know there's definitely some moms who cried the second Zoom meeting ended. And it's if you can find a way to keep a level head just enough to know what questions you have to ask him to get the right kind of answers that can really take you a long way in the IEP meeting. One thing that I see a lot with the kids who come to me for my dyslexia therapy services is the school isn't helping their child is that they are denied an IEP. And actually one of the misunderstandings is that kids don't have dyslexia. If the school denies an IEP, when really that's not necessarily the case, it just means they're not far enough behind to get the services at school. So what advice do you have for parents who are really upset that their child that they know is struggling is being denied an IEP? What? What do you think they should do?
Oh, man, this is this is such a personalized question. I think depending on what is actually happening. And to back it up, I think this is part of why like this system is just so archaic. And it's not changing very quickly with the knowledge that we have. Right. Dyslexia is like a perfect example of this where our knowledge is is I mean, building so rapidly. But the schools aren't responding to that in a very, I don't know, quick way, they're just very slow to change. So I think it probably depends on the situation. But I think that what a lot of people end up doing is trying to get an outside evaluation. And really, I've never seen a school team get mad, or get upset that there's been an outside evaluation. I think for most teams, it's like, okay, they already did the testing. So they don't have to do anymore. And I think that's really helpful. So if you have the resources to go and get an outside test, I would get an outside test by somebody who knows what they're looking for. Right? I think that holds a lot more weight than we really think it does. Especially if you're encountering a team that just doesn't know any better. And really, I'm not about bashing the schools, I came from that system. I understand that there's a lot to know that if they haven't had somebody with dyslexia before, they might not even know what they're talking about. When you talk about this stuff, they just haven't been exposed to it, which is just a sad part of our system. But I think an outside evaluation really, really helps. And I also think that understanding how the system that three prongs of eligibility work do you want me to go through those really briefly.
I would love if you could go through those three prongs. Okay, if you can go through a little bit of that, I think that would really help all of our wonderful listeners to learn a little bit more about this process, because some parents don't even know even the basics of it.
Yes, of course. So, you know, with the federal law of ide a, they lay out the 13 categories of how somebody can get qualified for an IEP. Now, once they're qualified, it shouldn't matter what category it is, they should get whatever the they're demonstrating the need is, we should be able to address that through the IEP. But sometimes it does depend on the category that you qualify under. So that's the federal law apart, but every state has a different checklist for those categories. Right. So most of the time, when we're talking about dyslexia, we're talking about that specific learning disability. And specifically in reading most of the time, there could be other things in there, mixed in there, too. But each state has a different checklist for how they qualify for that category. So they're looking at test scores, a lot of them look at grades, right, which is probably the number one reason why kids get denied an IEP is they're like, they're fine, their grades are great. Well, it's a bigger picture of that. But when we go through this checklist that is, again, different in each state, I actually did a whole series on my podcast that broke down Colorado's checklists as an example, just to see like, Hey, this is an example of what it looks like on there. But you can go through there. And again, that's different for each state. So they have to qualify based on that checklist. They look at, you know, their their scores and their grades and the whole big picture. The second thing is that they have to demonstrate an educational impact. And this, again, is how we get stuck on grades, because people just look up their grades. And they're like, what's the educational impact? Well, their grades are fine. Yes. But we need to look at the whole picture. And this is kind of the part that schools miss most of the time is like, Yeah, but what's the anxiety level of that child when they're going through school? How much time? Is it taking them to get through homework in the evening? Are they totally burned out? Are they falling apart at home when they get home, because they are so exhausted from working so hard all day, that they cannot keep it together when they get home, and they just can't they can't function when they get home? Those are the pieces that often get missed, because they're like grades, they're good, we're good? Well, ide a, the federal law actually outlines that we need to look at the picture of the whole child, which is super important. So ways that you can combat that is that you can take your own data on, hey, have like a printout of a calendar next to your front door, or however it works for you. And be like, okay, it took them two hours to recover up. It took us this long to do homework, those kinds of tracking pieces. The educational system loves data. And so if you bring data in, you're like, huh, here, like look at this, check this out. What is this mean? Most of the time, they will be like, Oh, we didn't realize that that was happening. If you just say it, though, they're oftentimes going to be like, no, they're fine. And they'll dismiss it. But if you bring your data that holds a little bit more weight, oh,
my goodness, Beth, everything you just said, touches all the points. I'm so glad my listeners are getting to hear today. Because so much of this is things that I have heard many parents say is that their kids are not falling far enough behind and they're not failing. So therefore, it's not having a big enough educational impact. I've even had parents go as far as to say the IEP team said, if they just don't come to tutoring to me anymore, and they start failing, then they'll give them IEP services at school. And it's one of those ones where it is heartbreaking to hear but I love hearing it from another perspective, with some great concrete strategies of what you can do, such as taking your own data, in order to give evidence to the team, that there is a problem, that there's still a struggle, even if they're managing to keep their grades up, it takes them four hours to get their homework done. And they're in tears and don't get to go to any sports or anything because everything takes them so long every day. Yeah,
exactly. Yeah. And then this third prong is, you know, if they're all kind of related to each other, but this is the specially designed instruction piece, and when we're talking about this piece, especially if you're like, oh, they don't need an IEP, they just need accommodations, they'll just get a 504 and I don't say justify before lightly five oh, fours are amazing when they work just like IEP s when they work so incredible. They're amazing. But we have to get them to work, right. So this specially designed instruction is kind of the difference between an IEP and a 504. And this is the teaching part, right? So accommodations would be like, okay, they just need extra time to read. They're just a slow reader. If we give them extra time, they'll be able to catch up. And the converse from that is like, whoa, whoa, we need some actually specifically designed instruction for their profile, whether that's an official diagnosis of dyslexia or not, and we could probably make a whole nother you probably have another episode on schools and diagnosing Oh, yes. Do that. So well. We'll skip over that. But this is that like, no, they actually need this specific instruction to be able to make progress. And so that's kind of the argument. Another thing is if you have a kiddo with like ADHD, sometimes, yes, like the accommodations will work from the 504. But the school is expecting them to have the skills to advocate for themselves, and they don't have those skills. So that's the specially designed instruction is no, they need help in learning how to advocate for those accommodations. You can't just take a second grader and say, Hey, would you have to ask for these accommodations? Because what second grader? Do you know that will? That's not gonna happen? That won't happen? It's not gonna happen? Nope. So those are the three prongs. And so you really have to break it down and say, Okay, what's my argument for this? What's my argument for this, and kind of outline it and I see parents when they're able to, again, understand the system a little bit better, all of a sudden, that email to request a reevaluation or an initial evaluation is very, very concrete. And instead of the team getting that, that I want to complete evaluation for my kid, and we're like, Well, what's, what's wrong? What are they struggling with? All of a sudden, if you give some more details related to these three prongs, especially, they're going to be like, Oh, we didn't realize that. Okay, yep. Let's test them. And now they're actually looking in the places that you want them to look. And they're more likely to find the struggles that you're outlining for them. Right. Fantastic.
That is such helpful information. So as we're getting closer to wrapping up now, where can parents look to find more information to support them as they're getting an IEP for their child?
Absolutely. So my website is the IEP lab.com. And my podcast is the parent IEP lab podcast. And actually, Lisa, if you wouldn't mind, I'll go ahead and send you that link for the eligibility for SLD example of my podcast, and you can link that up in your show notes. Okay, perfect. That's probably the easiest way to find me there. And we do have a summit coming up in February. That's all about accommodations. So of course, I will probably be asking you to speak. And we'll hear more about that as well. So that's the easiest place to find me.
Fantastic. Thank you so much for having us today. But is there anything else you wanted to share before we say goodbye to our listeners?
No, I think that's awesome. Just thank you so much for what you do. And thank you for having me on. Thank
you. All right, that wraps up my episode. I hope you enjoyed my interview with Beth as much as I did. And it was so great to learn from somebody else who has their expertise more in the IEP process. I've linked all the information for her in the show notes wherever you are listening to this podcast. Or as always, you can go to my show notes on my website. So for this episode, that would be Parnello education.com forward slash episode 74. Alright, that's it for today. See you next time.
Thanks for tuning into today's episode. If you want to learn even more about dyslexia, check out Parnello education.com forward slash courses. See you next time.