Posted by Wendi Hutchinson
As mothers of children with autism, Joan Munnelly, Autism Navigator, and I know the importance of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and how to ensure that goals are measureable and that service delivery is appropriate. I can remember trying to find an advocate to help with my sons' IEPs. It was not easy and it was very expensive.
This fall, Disability Lifespan Solutions (DLS) held an IEP clinic for families where we reviewed with parents their child's most recent IEP, their most recent evaluations/reports, and specific concerns they have. Joan and I met with parents at JF&CS Headquarters in Waltham for $25 per 50-minute session – much more affordable than the educational advocates we worked with when our children were younger!
As a parent, it is sometimes challenging to admit to your child's school that you do not understand the content of the IEP. Our goal through this clinic was to clarify and explain what the IEPs actually say and let parents know what they can expect from the school in terms of service delivery and the set goals. Joan and I made suggestions on how to approach the school if the family had additional questions about their child's IEP and we also let each family know how we can to help with any special education advocacy needs.
One family emailed me after our meeting to share, "Just wanted to thank you for the session on Thursday. It was interesting to get some additional suggestions from you both."
I look forward to offering this clinic again in the spring and hope to be able to help more families.
Wendi Hutchinson has been in the field of developmental disabilities and mental health personally and professionally for ten years. Before coming to JF&CS, Wendi worked as a family partner through psychiatric emergency services. Prior to working in the human services field, Wendi attended Westfield State College where she graduated with a degree in early childhood education. Currently she works for JF&CS Services for People with Disabilities as the Director of Disability Lifespan Solutions and Autism Navigation. In Wendi's free time she enjoys spending time with her husband and twins as well as friends and family.