Ah yes, t'is the season for IEP meetings. Quick pop quiz... What's an IEP meeting? Come on, you can do it! That's right, it's the individual education plan meeting. All parents with special needs children get to have those twice a year.
Did you know there is a sales market geared at IEP's? I'm serious. Here's a couple of links for you to check out:
This one is a little scary, but here you go: http://www.beautifulmindsinc.com/video-right
Love this picture I recently found about IEP's
If you've checked these out, you can understand why most parents come to these meetings prepared for battle. We know what's waiting for us: a cold, impersonal boardroom kind of place, with the school team on one side of the table, usually consisting of the educational assistant, teacher, principal, guidance counsellor and sometimes, if you're really lucky, the speech and language pathologist, physiotherapist and the special needs coordinator from the school division. All these people are sitting at a table, together, right across from you and whomever you're lucky enough to have talked into coming to the meeting with you. If you go alone, you sit alone. It kind of feels like you're sitting rather than standing in front of a firing squad... The feeling of judgement day is all around you. The people across the table from you look down at you. Uncomfortable? Nooo... A root canal is uncomfortable; this is a whole new level of discomfort my friend. While the whole table agrees that there are delays in speech, language & communication, play and learning, no one seems to know how to help the child mainstream into the classroom in a way where he or she can learn and be a contributing member of the class. So, since the self proclaimed professionals don't know how to help your child, they assure you that they are doing everything they humanly can and that you, as a parent... well... you suck. It is a discipline issue, that needs to be addressed at home, even though the behaviour generally only takes place at school. So, the professionals now need to draft a behaviour plan, which in a nut shell, tells the parent 1) how to parent and 2) typically says that you will come and pick up your child early from school when there's a meltdown.
In the past, rather than go to these meetings alone, I called my CSS worker to come with me as well as Dayton's behavioural specialist. Finally, I had asked a CFS worker to come join me in my fight for Dayton's rights at his school, as the three of us alone could not seem to get the school to understand that Dayton had a pervasive developmental disorder, along with ADHD, GDD and ODD, all contributing to how he relates with others, learns and understands the world in general to be.
This year is different.
We're in a new school division, and I am free to name it for you. Seven Oaks School Division.
I prepared for the IEP meeting dressed to the hilt, red nails and all, ready to fight for my children and their rights. Dayton's IEP came first.
There was no boardroom. There was a small desk, three chairs, Dayton's guidance counsellor and his educational assistant, Mike and myself. Even numbers...
"Dayton's had an amazing start to the new school year. We're so impressed with how he's adjusted and how he's wanting to learn. In fact, I've filed the negative notes from his past school in a different filing system, away from others, for my eyes only, as they do not describe the boy we have the pleasure of working with today..." said Dayton's guidance counsellor. "We're actually shocked at how well he is reading, we weren't expecting him to read..."
Wow... I sat on my hands, shamefully hiding my red nails.
I got to sit and listen to Dayton's educational assistant tell us how well Dayton works with her, and how yes, he does need constant guidance and supervision, as without her present, he figures he doesn't have to work, but still... My baby is learning!!! He's working hard!!! No meltdowns as the staff nip it in the butt and are proactive!!! They've gotten to know him and see trouble coming before it happens, stop it, and move on! I left the meeting SMILING!
Next stop: Amber's IEP meeting.
Friends, I was stunned. As I walked into the room, we had a few more people on the other side of the table then we had at Dayton's IEP meeting: Amber's teacher, her educational assistant, the speech & language pathologist, and someone from the school division. On the table in front of us, they had Tim Horton's coffee and Timbits waiting for us!!! Seriously! No joke, this is a true story! I've never been served anything during an IEP meeting other than "your son is feisty and non compliant, here's his IEP and behaviour plan, fix him, yourself and his father, you're wrong, we're right, you suck, now get out." In fact, his old principal three years ago tried to tell me my son was a psychopath, etc...
I was in for another surprise. The school staff sitting in front of Mike and myself were genuinely concerned about Amber and our took our fears of Amber's regression seriously. They too noticed that she has been regressing, and had questions for us about how things were going at home, and what they could do to (wait for it, you're not going to believe it because I nearly fell off my chair when I heard them...) HELP! The women sitting in front of us wanted to know how to help Amber! They didn't criticize our parenting, they didn't blame us for her disability or accuse us of not disciplining our daughter. They wanted to support us and praised us for everything we do for our children!
I quietly and as discreetly as I could, began to chip away at my nail polish under the table.
There is a reason the rear view mirror is very small in comparison to the huge windshield in front of me. Where my children are headed is far more important than what we've left behind. This school gets it. And I am humbly grateful.
I left the school smiling so hard, my face hurt. I've never left an IEP smiling before. It always ended in tears and self loathing.
Consider yourselves hugged, especially those of you waiting for your turn in the dreaded IEP seat,