So my plan for weekly posts had to go on the backburner, especially with IEP season coming up. You know what I mean right, the time of year when you have literally back-to-back-to-back IEPs and almost no time to prepare for them?
That’s me. For example, the week after spring break, I have 8 IEPs scheduled in a span of 3 days, with 6 of them being triennials or initials. Yikes.
You too? It’s good to know I am not alone. I do have a few tips that I am trying to live by, hopefully they will be helpful to you as well.
1. Plan ahead.
One of the schools I work at generally schedules its IEPs way in advance, because they have such a large volume of students on IEPs. I could see my crazy busy week coming from several weeks away, and have done my best to plan accordingly. I tried to schedule all my assessments well in advance, so I don’t run out of time to see the students in case they are absent. Also, I did my best to schedule in time to write up the reports onto my calendar. Of course, that doesn’t always go the way I want it to, but planning it in advance helps me see what tasks I need to accomplish in a certain period of time.
2. Break it up into smaller steps.
When you have so much on your plate that you need to get done, it can feel overwhelming to even know where to start. I created a checklist for myself (and named it the IEP insanity checklist) so I could check off the small steps I needed to complete to prep for an IEP. If I only have just enough time to go into SEIS (a web-based IEP management system) to update present levels and services, but don’t have time to enter the goals, I can go in and do that, then check off those two items on my list. Makes it easier to feel that I am actually accomplishing something. Plus I don’t have to backtrack later on and figure out what I have and haven’t done yet.
3. Ask for help when you need it.
It’s easy to feel like we need to be Superwoman (or Superman as the case may be), but it is important to ask for help when we are overwhelmed. I asked my COTA to take on a few of the monthly consults temporarily, to give me more time to focus on my IEPs. But that wasn’t enough, and I approached my supervisor to give me more time over the spring break to get all my IEPs done. I was very specific in what I had on my plate, what I had done to prepare for that, what I had already completed, and what I still needed extra time for. That way, she knew that I wasn’t just asking for extra time to finish things that I should have been able to get done during regular work hours. She approved it, (goodbye, two days of spring break!) but now at least I will get compensated for work that I would need to get done anyway.
4. Breathe. This too shall pass.
It’s easy to get caught up in the stress of what needs to get done and how little time we have to do it in, but hopefully, your entire schoolyear isn’t like that. My IEPs tend to ebb and flow, and it helps to remember that after the crazy IEP week, I may have a less hectic week or two. Mindfulness can be a helpful tool, not just for our clients, but for ourselves as well.
5. Remember who you are doing it for.
I know we are all in this job to try and help our students, but sometimes our main goal can take a back seat to the pressures from administration, parents, and just trying to get our part of the IEP prepared on time. But the main purpose of the IEP is for all the team members, including the parents, to collaborate on the best course of action for the student for the next year. Remembering this helps me keep my mind on my student and his or her needs, without letting outside pressures cloud my clinical judgement.
Whew! There is a light at the end of the tunnel, I just need to survive IEP insanity in the meantime!