This month, I had the pleasure of interviewing my sister, Kelly Dauer-Hubschmitt. Her four-year old son (and my nephew), Jack, began preschool in New Jersey last year. I’d talked with Kelly about the process of finding the right school for Jack, but I wanted to fully understand it from start-to-finish.
In this discussion, Kelly tells me about her initial plans for Jack’s schooling, some of the challenges she and her husband, Matt, faced along the way, and what they’ve learned throughout each stage.
For beginners or those new to the process, explain what an IEP is and how to go about getting one for your child.
IEP stands for Individualized Education Program — a document developed for public school children who require special education. The IEP is a team effort, which includes therapists, teachers and parents. Ideally, the IEP is reviewed, discussed and updated at least once a year.
What was the initial IEP process for Jack like?
Our first IEP for Jack began about 4 months before he started preschool. We discussed educational goals with Jack’s early intervention team, and then met with the IEP team to share our insights. We talked about where Jack might best succeed, including options in and out of our school district. After that discussion, we met again to review the goals we drafted.
Overall, the process was fairly smooth for us and our district was open to providing Jack the services we recommended. However, given Jack’s dual sensory disability (something our district had never experienced before), we had to “sell” services that the district was unfamiliar with, which meant hiring a patient advocate to help us fight for these services.
What type of services did the patient advocate have to explain to the district?
Due to Jack’s dual sensory disability, the advocate thought he would benefit from a nationally accredited intervener, who obtains training through Utah State University. This is a person who would work one-on-one with Jack throughout the day to provide him with information that is usually gained through vision and hearing.
Currently, only a few states recognize the role of the intervener for deaf-blind students. Other states, like our home state of New Jersey, does not. That said, The New Jersey Consortium on Deaf Blindness provides some basic training to individuals who are interested in learning more about becoming an intervener.