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That's What She Said

Recently my husband and I went on a vacation for which he arranged the lodging at an AirBnB. He really didn’t tell me much about the place until we were on our way. All he said was, “The house is owned by a visually impaired artist, and it’s only 2 blocks from the beach.”

We arrived at the house to find the owner there. He hadn’t told me she was going to be there, not because he was trying to hide it, but because he didn’t realize it. As the owner was showing us around the house, I noticed all the small fans blowing.

As she took us to our room, where 2 more fans were blowing hot air around, I looked at my husband and asked if there was air conditioning. He shrugged his shoulders. I asked the owner and she said “No, it’s stated on my site.” It was 94 degrees and extremely humid. :(

We brought the rest of our stuff in and two cats greeted us. My husband is not a fan of household cats. I asked him if he knew the place had cats, he nodded, but said he didn’t think they would be around us. It is obvious to me that we were in their house and where ever they wanted to be, they were allowed to be ;)

We couldn’t stand the heat inside, and hoping the air by the water would be cooler or that we could put our feet in, we decided to walk the two blocks to the beach. The homeowner pointed down the street.

We began walking in the direction she pointed. Thinking it was only going to be 2 blocks, I didn’t change out of my jeans from traveling, that was a mistake. We walked for 2 blocks, then 3, then 4, and came to an overlook where we could see Lake Michigan.

This is my picture of the overlook.

We kept walking thinking we must be close to the beach. Twenty minutes later, we gave up, found a bench, and wondered what in the world had happened.

When we arrived home a few days later I visited the AirBnB site and found this house’s description.

The wording on the site says, “2 blocks from Lake Michigan.” That is slightly different from what my husband said. Technically, the house is 2 blocks from being able to see the lake. (the 2nd block never ended on our side of the street, but there was a new block or two on the other side)

He said the home was owned by a visually impaired artist, the site actually says, “Room is in a house owned/occupied by visual artist whose studio is the living room. Two friendly cats and host in residence. Guests have access to house.”

This is my picture of her studio in the living room.

Personally, I did not consider that I had access to this space as there is no place other than at her desk (where her iPad and bookkeeping books were) or her art table (where her art supplies were out and she was working on something) to sit.

Now, I do not write these things and share these pictures to complain about my husband or the house where we stayed, but to make a point. My husband and I have great reading comprehension skills, we have read hundreds of books in our lifetimes and can tell you all about any of them. So how does someone who has great reading comprehension ability get so many things “wrong” after reading the description about this house?

Due to our perspective and what we thought the words meant in our own minds, our vision was different from the owner’s vision when she wrote the words. You see, every person can have different definitions of words (especially in the English language) but also a different vision for what the picture of those words looks like. Neither my husband, nor the owner of the house were wrong in their thoughts, but a clarification of certain words may have helped or been necessary. Also, if another set of eyes had read the description, that might have helped, too.

This is the same for when a Individualized Education Program (IEP) is being written. Words are spoken and words are heard. The speaker has their own vision and understanding of what they mean when they use certain words, however, the hearer may have a different vision or understanding. Neither person is wrong or right. We base our speaking and hearing on our own perspectives, experiences, biases, and desires. My husband wanted to be close to the beach, so when he read the words “2 blocks from Lake Michigan” his mind pictured a beach.

Many times I have been in meetings when there is tension because the parents feel the school is not following the IEP or the school feels the parents are being unreasonable with their requests. I have discovered in many of those cases that it boils down to different visions or understanding for the words being used to write the IEP. Some words that I have seen written into IEPs that are viewed differently are: often, frequent, extended, sufficient, increase, decrease, prompts, checklist, grade level, reading, sight words, inclusion, preferential seating, flexible, by request, as necessary, prompted, cues, many, lessened, fewer, limited, demonstrate, identify, participate, recognize, accurately, etc.

This is not an exhaustive list of words that need to be clarified, there are probably hundreds if not thousands more. It is imperative that everyone on the IEP team has a clear understanding of what is expected by the speaker’s words. Anything that can be construed as subjective should be discussed and clarified so everyone on the IEP team knows exactly what is expected of the student, teachers, other school personnel who might be interpreting or implementing the IEP or collecting data, and parents.

When the team can have a collaborative discussion and everyone is on the same page about how everything is going to happen, there is more chance of the IEP being carried out with validity and all members of the team feeling equal and valued. There is also less chance of misunderstanding among all involved with the student. Remember, if you have these discussions with your IEP team and I highly recommend that you do, there are no right or wrong visions. Ask the question, "What does that look like in practice?" or "Would you explain how you envision that happening?" or say, "This is how I see this happening, or this is what I envision when I say this."

Work together and don’t take offense if what you envisioned with your words is different from someone else’s or from the entire team. Always keep in the forefront of your mind, what the data shows and what is appropriate for the student is what is most important while preparing that student for further education, employment, and independent living which is the purpose of the meeting and of the IEP.

Shelley Kenow is the owner of Shelley Kenow IEP Consulting, Author of Those Who "Can't..." Teach, Speaker, provider of Professional Development, Master IEP Coach®, and advocate.

She can be followed on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, or YouTube. You can also join her Facebook group.

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