When you have a child(ren) with a disability label, it seems that far too often the focus is on the label, not the child. Our childrens’ educational folders are typically jam packed with records–evaluations, eligibility documentation, medical information, therapy information, IEP paperwork. If you were to look through all of that information, you would get a snapshot of who that child is, what their strengths and weaknesses (probably more weaknesses than strengths) are, what they’re capable and not capable of. But is it truly an accurate picture? An educational plan based strictly on this type of information is a disservice to everyone. For this reason, a Student Introduction Portfolio and vision statement can add the human element to the paperwork.
What is a Student Introduction Portfolio?
The purpose of the portfolio is to share who your child really is with those working with your child. For example, what are some of their favorite things to do? Their favorite color? What’s their family background? The portfolio might include photos of family and friends, places your child likes to go. It could possibly have a list of hints and tips about your child that you’d only know if they knew your child really well. The possibilities for a Student Introduction Portfolio are endless. But basically, it’s a way to communicate to those who don’t know your child what it is that really makes them tick. Who is your child BEYOND the disability label? What makes your child unique?
What is a Vision Statement?
Writing a vision statement is one of the quickest and easiest ways to get started on your child’s portfolio. For instance, what are your hopes and dreams for your child? How do you want the world to experience your child beyond the four walls of a school building? By sharing your vision, your child is no longer just another name in a pile of paperwork. Your child has a life and a purpose and dreams. When people begin looking past the disability label, everyone can work together to make that vision a reality.
My son’s vision statement was originally written a few years ago. I read this statement at the beginning of every staffing (pre-IEP) and IEP meeting. The vision statement really helps the staff understand what our expectations are, and it brings the human element to the meeting. Therefore, it is a great reminder that we’re talking about MY SON, not just filling out all the check boxes at an IEP meeting.
Below is a copy of our vision statement. Feel free to tweak it, rewrite it, and make it your own. Writing a vision statement is a great first step in building a complete Student Introduction Portfolio.
Our Vision for Wade
We have a vision for Wade; a vision that goes far beyond the walls of a school building. Our vision started out pretty simple, for Wade to be included. As the years have flown by our vision has begun to evolve into something even bigger. Not only do we want Wade to be included in his school, neighborhood, and community, we also want him to be a contributing and active participant in his own life.
It is also important to us that Wade be surrounded by people who love, support, and care for him in a way that fosters his independence without creating a sense of “learned helplessness”. We want Wade to be a part of a community where differences are accepted and attempts are made to educate those who may be fearful or ignorant with regard to the culture of disability. We believe that language and words are powerful and see value in using People First Language where Wade as a person is put before his disabilities. By modeling this language, we are attempting to eliminate the prejudice that surrounds those who have a disability while encouraging others to see past the disability. Wade is the amazing little boy he is because of his cerebral palsy; it is a part of him, but it does not define him.
As Wade’s parents, we are an integral part of the team that supports him and his education. It is vital that the lines of communication remain open and that the staff working with Wade support our vision for him. We cannot do this alone. It will take all of us working together to make school a place where Wade can be successful and thrive both academically and socially. _______________ Elementary is part of the foundation Wade needs in order for him to achieve whatever dreams he desires. We are confident that when given the same opportunities as every other child, Wade will find his voice and be successful in school, community, and life.
“My identity is the product of my history. My history is that of a person with cerebral palsy. If I didn’t have cerebral palsy, I wouldn’t be who I am; I’d be someone else. Frankly, I like who I am, I like my history, I like my life. I’m not sure I’d sacrifice who I am for the sake of normal movement and speech.” ~ Norman Kunc
So, what do you think? Do you think this is something you could write and present at your next IEP meeting? I’d love for you to come back and let me know how it went! For more samples of Student Introduction Portfolios, you can go here.