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Developing your own I(L)EP.

As parents of children with special needs, you realize the importance of developing individualized educational plans for your children. What may be less obvious, however, is the importance of developing individualized plans for yourselves. While your son or daughter needs an IEP, parents may need an ILEP, an Individualized Life Enhancement Plan.

Since stress and burnout can create havoc in our lives, the development of an ILEP can be an important first step toward a more personally satisfying way of life.

Needs assessment

Developing an ILEP is not that different from developing an IEP. The basic process is the same. As with an IEP, we start with an assessment of our needs, proceed through identifying appropriate goals and action statements and then establish a plan for evaluation. The first part--determining where you are--is based on a needs assessment of one's personal life. You might ask yourself, "Where am I on the scale of living a personally satisfying life?" Next, examine the various aspects of your life to identify strengths and needs. Think about your physical, social and emotional well-being. The following are some questions you might ask:

Physical.. Do I feel vibrant and healthy? Do I feel physically fit? Am I exercising and eating well? Do I give my body enough rest and relaxation? Social... How often do I get together with friends, or go to movies, concerts or plays? What kind of social life do I have? Emotional/psychological Do I like myself?. Am I generally satisfied with my life? Am I having fun?

After examining your personal life and determining your strengths and needs, it's time to set priorities. Your needs assessment may have indicated that you rarely exercise, that you're rather disorganized in your work, and that you spend very little time with your friends. If you feel that one or more of these areas plays only a small part in your life, ignore it. The point of the self examination is to identify areas of neglect or need that are important to you.


Once you identify and prioritize areas of concern, you can make specific plans for changes in your life. This is part two of the ILEP process--the development of goals for yourself. The goals on your ILEP should be general statements of what you hope to accomplish over a certain period of time. ILEP goals might include "to spend more time with my children," "to spend less time at work" or "to become more socially active." Because an ILEP is intended to enhance the quality of your life, it's important to limit yourself to no more than two or three goals. Trying to concentrate on too many goals at one time will cause frustration and stress rather than feelings of joy and satisfaction.

Part three of the ILEP process involves moving from abstract goals to actual changes in your life by translating your goals to "action statements." These action statements are comparable to the short term objectives on an IEP. They outline the steps you can take right now to make positive changes in your life. For example, if one of your goals is to develop closer friendships, a related action might be to visit, write or call a friend at least once a week.

As with short-term objectives on an IEP, the action statements in part three of your ILEP should be positive, realistic and measurable. Keep these statements positive by focusing on what you want or what you're moving toward. The following examples illustrate the difference between positive and negative statements.


I'm going to walk 30 minutes during my lunch hour three times a week.

I'm going to get involved in the social committee at church.

I'm going to plan something fun to do with my son at least one evening each week.


I'm going to stop eating lunch at my desk every day.

I'm going to spend fewer evenings by myself at home.

I'm going to stop fighting with my son over his messy room.

Be realistic

In addition to being positive, your action statements must also be realistic. Even though you may want to take walks during your lunch hour, this may be an unrealistic goal. Perhaps the environment around your home or workplace is not conducive to a relaxing or invigorating walk. If your action statements aren't realistic, you'll only be setting yourself up to fail by trying to work something into your life that doesn't fit. As with your child's IEP, it's far better to have a plan that can be accomplished-even if it moves you only one small step toward a desired goal--than to decide on a plan that sets you up for failure and disappointment.

Keep track of progress Action statements also need to be measurable. You must be able to objectively gauge whether or not you're making changes in the right direction. Objective measures keep us honest. They can also serve as powerful motivators.

It's important to evaluate progress toward your goals. An evaluation plan should include specific monitoring activities which will be carried out at regular intervals. For example, if one of your goals is to spend more time with your friends and you've decided to contact a friend at least once a week, you may plan to evaluate the past week's progress every Sunday morning.

Write a contract

The last part of the ILEP process is to enter into a written agreement with yourself. In this part you will write a contract promising that you will take definitive steps to take care of yourself. One way to start this statement is as follows: "Because I value myself and believe in living a healthy, balanced life, I will..."

Once you've finalized your ILEP, sign it, date it and celebrate. Do something special for yourself now-- take a walk in a park, go out to eat with a friend, or spend all afternoon reading a novel.

Now it's time to implement your Individualized Life Enhancement Plan. Investing time and energy in an ILEP can make your life healthier and more satisfying. Children are not the only ones who need an investment of time energy, and planning in order to accomplish important goals in life. To avoid stress and burnout, parents also need individualized plans for continued growth and joy.

Ruth A. Wilson is an assistant professor in the Department of Special Education at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. She has a master's degree in special education and a doctorate in early childhood education. Dr. Wilson was a special education teacher for 12 years and has worked with students from preschool through graduate school. She lives with her husband, Fred, in Toledo, Ohio. She has two daughters, a step-daughter and a grandson.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:individualized life enhancement plan
Author:Wilson, Ruth A.
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Oct 1, 1993
Previous Article:Helping Children Overcome Learning Difficulties, 3d ed.
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