Most of us will attend an ISRC (In-School Review Committee) at some point during our career. Usually, it is for students that we have concerns about in a variety of areas including behaviour, academic success, emotional well being etc… In my experience, the ISRC will include an administrator, a Special Education teacher and a variety of other professionals from outside your school. The goal of the ISRC is to review and monitor students’ needs.
Like many other things in teaching, no one really sits you down and explains how to get the best out of your trip to the ISRC. I wish someone had told me how to prepare and what to ask for so that my students could get the best services possible. After one year in a special education role, I have learned many things that I didn’t know before and I can share with you how I now prepare for an ISRC.
Before I go, I answer the following questions:
What is the problem? Is the student struggling academically, is attendance an issue, have they gone through some kind of trauma, is there severe behaviour, are they going through difficult financial times etc. Before you go before the panel have the issue that you are trying to address very clear in your mind. Basically, what is in the way of this student being an academically successful contributing member of the classroom? If it is multiple things, pick one to start.
Have I done my homework? Get out the OSR for this student to see if this student has ever had any kind of supports before. Referrals, signed consent forms and reports of service should all be in the OSR for you to review. A good team at the ISRC table will ask about previous supports for the student.
Do I have evidence to support my student’s need? Evidence will help you answer any questions that the panel may have for you. Evidence may include attendance records, assignments, report cards or behaviour tracking sheets. Basically, anything to demonstrate your student’s need.
Have I called the parents to communicate my concerns? Before you step foot in ISRC you should communicate your concerns with parents and explain that you will be going to discuss their child at an In School meeting.
What services does the student need? Before I started my current job, I literally had no idea what supports were even available to ask for. This is the mistake that I made many times early in my career. I went to ISRC not to ask for services but to highlight a student I was worried about. No one told me that going to talk about a student I was worried about was sometimes not a useful exercise. I wish I could go back in time and request social work for my student who was always absent and Speech for my student who was struggling with his articulation.
Nobody told me that you could ask for:
- Speech and Language Therapy. Can address concerns about articulation, assistive technology, programming and communication needs.
- Occupational Therapy. Can address concerns about fine motor, gross motor, sensory needs and daily life tasks such as toileting, putting on clothing, holding a pencil and tying shoes.
- Physical Therapy. Can address concerns about physical mobility and safety around the school and in the classroom.
- Social Work. Can address concerns about family trauma, attendance and mental health. They can also provide support in making connections with community support.
- Phycologist. Can perform Physcoeducational assessments and support on the writing of a safety plan
- Behaviour Team. Can observe, plan and consult on behaviour at school and at home and help with behaviour that is interfering with academic success.
Obviously, there is usually a long, long wait list for many of the services and the services are often given to students that are most in need first. However, if you never ask, the student will never receive the help you are looking for.
One final thought
If the student is struggling academically, you can go to ISRC to get input on teaching strategies from the panel. However, please keep in mind that out of all of the people in the room you are the only one that has taught the student. It can be very frustrating listening to a group of people suggest strategies that you know will not work because of your experience with the student. It makes more sense to invite a colleague or a teacher in the school with special education experience to come in to your class and to co-teach a lesson and discuss strategies. After you have tried a few strategies and have some data to demonstrate the effectiveness of those strategies a trip to ISRC could be the next step and the experts in the room will be able to provide more effective feedback.
Thanks for all that you do every day to support your amazing students at your school!