Emiliann's IEP Team


Back in Maryland, at Huntingtown Elementary, Emiliann Simpson finally got what she needed — a team of people committed to making sure she becomes a good reader.

On-Screen: Emiliann's Team

Here's the lineup. At mom, we have… mom. Jennifer Simpson, who knows Emiliann better than anyone else. We have her parent advocate, Emiliann's homeroom teacher, her speech/language pathologist, and her Special Ed teacher. The Assistant Principal coordinates the team. And the head coach, overseeing all the players, is Principal Ramona Crowley.

Seven people may seem like a lot, but that's what it takes to carry out a plan that meets all of Emiliann's needs now that she's been formally identified as a Special Education student.

Today, Assistant Principal, Jennifer Young, has convened Emiliann's year-end IEP meeting. An IEP is an individualized education plan required by law for any child in special education.

Jennifer Young: Okay, the first thing we're going to do this morning is we're going to review Emiliann's progress.

This meeting is a time to review her work for the year, talk about areas where she's still struggling, and make plans for next year.

Jennifer Simpson: She still has problems when she reads a book to me, or to her sister. And I'm like, "Well, who was the one who went to the store? And she has to actually physically go back and look at the pictures.

Voice: That's what we're working on. That's the comprehension. I mean that is —

Jennifer Simpson: Right.

Voice: — the major part of the reading. We're workin' on that comprehension.

In an IEP meeting you, as a parent, have the right to ask any question you want.

Jennifer Young: If the parent is not viewed as a true member of the IEP committee, then the IEP really is not servicing the full child. Schools can make decisions about educational programs, but the school is not the expert on the child. That's the parent, and that input is critical and valued, and needs to be a part of the IEP team.

Jennifer says she's finally found people who can help Emiliann — and who will do whatever it takes to teach her to read.

Ms. Manley: Is there another one?

Emiliann: Everyone.

Ms. Manley: Everyone. Excellent, Emili. There's another one.

In her homeroom with Ms. Manley, Emiliann and her classmates work on learning new words.

Jennifer Young: One of the things we talked about with Emily Ann was that she really needs a double dose. She needs the thinking and processing skills that are provided in a general-education classroom setting, but she also needs work on her weaknesses.

During her Special Ed time with Mrs. Scher, Emiliann gets extra practice in the basics like sounding out vowel dipthongs.

Ms. Scher: What does "a-w" say?

Emiliann: "Ooo."

Ms. Scher: "A-w."

Emiliann: "Aw."

Ms. Scher: Good. Let's try "e-w."

With Ms. Sayles, Emiliann gets concentrated attention on her language skills. Today she's working on descriptive language.

Emiliann: She's holding an umbrella. It is purple and the handle was brown.

Ms. Sayles: I heard some colors.

Everyone's happy to see Emiliann's progress.

Ms. Sayles: Her overall goal was to improve her expressive language. And I must say that Emiliann is doing very well.

Jennifer Simpson: Yeah, her spelling has been phenomenal, because before, she couldn't get — outta ten words, she'd get three. But now, she's doing — she's bringing home, "Look, Mom. I got a hundred percent," you know? And I'm like, "Woo-hoo!"

The school will continue to monitor Emiliann regularly and adjust her instruction whne they need to. And it looks likE Emiliann is on her way.

Ms. Sayles: Super. Okay.

Jennifer Simpson: She still has an issue. She still has problems. They still have an IEP, but she likes to read now. She reads to her sister. They read things on the signs. She reads things on cereal boxes. Just things she would never even try, she does. That alone, makes me do cartwheels.

In many schools, pulling together a team like Emiliann has may be difficult, but your job is to keep searching for help — either inside the school or out — because so much is a stake.

Emiliann [reading]: But I love that little puppy.

From Reading Rockets' Empowering Parents, part of the Launching Young Readers Series.