IFSP, IEP, ISP……..

Like in any field, there are many acronyms you need to know when you have a child with special needs. The laws that protect the rights of people with disabilities have systems in place for parents/guardians to meet with those people/schools/agencies that provide services to their child. These meetings all have acronyms and many forms and it will feel like everyone understands except you!

Just like budget discussions within your family, there are always competing goals. At home, you might have these goals: 1) spend as little as possible on groceries and 2) provide as nutritious and delicious meals as possible for your family. When it comes to meeting the needs of your child, your goal is to get everything your child needs. The agency you are meeting with has limits to the resources that must be spread fairly among the population needing those services. I usually felt very emotional during these meetings. It always seemed like the professionals at the table knew so much more about what services could be delivered and how it could work, and I often wasn’t even sure the questions to ask. This was my responsibility to learn about, and we did try, but it was still so intense weighing whether I fought hard enough to make sure my child got what was fair and best for her.

Now that Monica is out of school, we use an ISP – Individualized Service Plan which includes Employment Services and Individual Skill Development Plan. We meet with a Support Administrator from the County and an Employment Services specialist from the County and if appropriate, someone from the employer. In November, I requested a meeting with the Support Administrator to talk about looking for the next job for Monica. Monica had been in her current job for a year and I wanted her to keep learning new skills and further her growth. There were also some things I was concerned about.

In December, I had my best meeting of Monica’s life. For maybe the first time, I felt like we were all really ‘on the same side’. Everyone really wanted to find the best next job for Monica. We discussed Monica’s personality and her abilities and interests and her family and social considerations. It was arranged for her to visit three job sites and observe the duties of the job, the setting, the supervisor and the co-workers. Everyone, especially Monica, could express her impressions of the job. We all had the same good feeling about one of the jobs. During the discussions there, I could feel that lump in my throat that I used to get at IEP meetings. I felt so strongly that I wanted this to work and I did not understand all the acronyms being thrown around about the funding and the level of support. But I could tell they all wanted it to work too. After the visits, Monica and I drew up a chart and talked about the different aspects of the jobs. We called the Support Administrator on the following Monday to tell her what Monica decided and she jumped in and made it happen.

Monica is now working out her notice from the current job and we’ll write another post when she is settled in the new position.

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