I see the all to familiar return address from the school district on the envelope as I go through the mail. My pulse quickens. My blood pressure surely rises and my breathing catches as I open it. It is that time of year again. The official notice of our annual IEP review.
Insert dramatic music of your choice here!
The IEP. It is a thing of beauty really. Tailor making an educational plan for the year. A way to chart your child's progress. It also gets a bad rep and strikes fear into the heart of many a parent. Especially those poor newbies. I mean at least when we started, I actually had a background in special education and the IEP process. I was able to be a bit of a guide for Daddy Fry. He's got quite fluent now. Why does it have to suck so much? It really shouldn't but it does. Here's what I thought about while drinking my coffee.
1)While it's super for charting your kids progress it's also a slap you in the face with the reality of what your kid ISN'T doing well in. While some parents may worry about that steady "C" average Junior is pulling in math, we get to see that our child is barely making a "P" for "Progressing". On something like just writing their name. Shoe tying is marked with an "I" meaning just "Introduced". Or you see an "NE" for "Not exposed" because your kid just isn't ready to deal with using a fork on their own. In this house, who needs an "A" when you can celebrate when you see an "M" for "Mastered". (And if that is for toileting, you crack open a bottle. That is worth some serious celebrating.).
2) There is just so much stuff to cover in it. It is exhausting to write one. Even after all these years just reading the damned thing makes my eyes cross. This is not just academics. It's speech, OT, PT, life skills, social skills, hygiene and behavioral. It can be daunting to try and decide what you want to work on with your child and you got to hope like Hell good old Teacher and company is thinking the same way.
3) I have joked before that my kiddo has an entourage but it really can get ridiculous how many people can be at one of these. Last year we had the problem of finding a room big enough for all of us. Then it's a fight for time. Everyone wanting to go first because they have to get back to teaching/therapies. You kid or someone else's. The school nurse even comes to my son's and it's kind of "why are you even here?" I mean she's nice and all but he really doesn't have any complicated medical issues we need to address. I think she's coming just to hang out. She knows I'm inappropriate after so I bet I'm just entertaining to watch.
4) Getting to "yes". There is always something that becomes the topic of heated debate. Either the parents won't budge or the school. I get sometimes the school cannot legitimately provide some things. It's when they can and they simply don't. Case in point, when the kiddo was in preschool his behavior was shall we say, less than stellar. We were increasingly concerned how this would impact him academically if something wasn't done. The teacher at the time suggested a behavioral assessment done by the school shrink. We finally felt like we were being heard. She did her observations and provided a very lengthy report remarking that "Yes kiddo's behavior is as bad as parents claim. It will impact learning BUT no, no need to do anything" (OK not the exact quote but ya get it right?). I was LIVID!! Daddy Fry was out for blood at that meeting. At the end of the day all we were asking for was a chart to be kept of when these behaviors were happening so we could see if there was a pattern. My husband really went in swinging at this meeting but dammit we got that behavior plan. Yes, I'm sure we looked like pains in the asses but hey I didn't go there to make friends. I went in for my kid. Now all this time later, it's paying off. In fact this year we might actually have to drop it out of the IEP. Simply because he doesn't need it anymore.
5) Crystal ball, not included. Trying to figure out where your kid is going to be in a year is impossible. You can hope and pray but still at the end of the day, you really have no idea of this program is going to work. One thing I always panic about is wasted time. Two years ago I started butting heads with his then OT to start a typing program. She blew it off completely. Two years later its still a struggle to get him to write his own name without help. Luckily this current teacher and his new OT agree with me and have started teaching it to him. I can't help feel guilty that two whole years went by without it though. When we could of been making progress, we had to deal with an OT who wouldn't even come to his IEPs until I screamed bloody murder for it. I worry about what will be the next big thing we won't see progress on and kick myself over the time wasted. I just can't predict that and it is frustrating.
So I will start reviewing our notes. I will starting psyching myself up for the meeting by playing "Eye of the Tiger". I do going in there hoping for the best but wise enough to know to expect anything. I will promise my husband once again that I will not lunge at anybody. Damn that's hard to do.
Perhaps I shall bring in a couple orders of fries to set a jolly mood. :-)