We all do it right, the IEP prayer the night, week, month leading up to an IEP. You know the one, “Dear Lord, please open the teams mind, heart and soul in order to do the best they can for MY child.”
Wait… am I the only one? Can’t be. Please tell me I am not alone here.
Anyway, here I am again… praying. This one… though… honestly… I’ve never prayed harder.
This IEP, on Thursday, this one… it is a transitional IEP. Steve is winding down his time in elementary school and is about to head off to middle school. WOW, that’s scary. It is scary not just because the time has flown unbelievably fast bye my eyes, but scary because Brooklyn’s been in middle school now for two years and I feel as though I have a pretty good grasp on what life is like there. To be honest, that scares the CRAP outta me for Steve.
Generally, Steve needs low levels of support. He can dress himself, he can use the restroom on his own, can get his own lunch from the shelter while at school, and so on. However, when it comes to his academics, well this is where his need for support lies. I’ve seen the work load handed to 6th graders out of the gate and I’ve seen Steve’s current work product sent home. Steve still needs support a lot of it, but not in the ways many others need support. Steve is an individual…. I guess this is why they are called Individual Education Plans. So, lets be honest, it all starts with his executive functioning skills, or lack there of. So that’s what sent me off on my latest IEP prep spiral, how do I help him with his deficits with executive functioning.
What’s that? Com’mon first you don’t know the prayers and now you don’t know the spiral? I can NOT be the only one this is happening to, Honestly, TRUTHFULLY… hello… Bueller.. Bueller… Is this thing on?
Well yes… It is true… for this IEP the usual spiral turned into the DEATH SPIRAL, but….ok so, well, I ended up spending well over 150 hours researching, learning, figuring out, and taunting myself with the most amazing information I could find. This time, one thing seemed to lead to another. More great information after more great information. I stumbled on the holy grail of missing puzzle pieces, I met other mom’s in other parts of the country who have legal support on speed dial. Man oh Man I was gonna get this one RIGHT! Mama here was a dog… with a bone. Nothing you are gonna do can stop me. I am going to be the best, most informed parent at this IEP meeting that you have ever seen! (Really, you still don’t recognize the spiral?… Fine!)
It helped, it really did. I did learn a lot of new things, like how to write better IEP goals. I look back at my son’s previous IEP’s now and cringe. I wonder, how did I think this was okay. How did I think this was going to help him? It really is remarkable. How once you know more you DO more. How once you see something you can never “unsee” it ever again. This is how I feel about my son Steve’s previous IEP’s. I see the mistakes now, clearer than EVER.
I know, don’t beat yourself up “mom, ” you didn’t know.
That leads me to this… the BIGGEST thing I learned through this years IEP prep… you know all those people you thought were the experts and were going to lead you out of the darkness and we’re going to solve all your child’s academic problems he has….. you know… THE TEAM….. what I learned is THEY DON’T KNOW SHIT! Yes, I said it, and I mean it. I am not saying however that the fact I just stated, is their fault.
I believe that every Special Education Teacher out there wants the best for their kiddos. I know that to be true. What I do not believe is that the districts feel the same way. I believe, the government (federal, state and local) feel educating “those kids” is costly. Especially those “autistic ones” with all the different problem. If they are all “snowflakes” and we have to treat them all individually, that’s going to get expensive, quick. On top of that they can’t put our kiddos in an “autism classroom” and just have a new way of “dealing with them.” It is not how this works. So therefore, it becomes messy, complicated and expensive. In addition to that, I sure do not see the SpEd teachers be able to go back to class, learn about the newest disabilities emerging and how best to tackle the issues associated with them. THIS IS FALLING UPON US PARENTS TO DO… and this is why I am acknowledging here and now… the “team” is not your child’s savior… YOU ARE… I AM! Hence the 150+ hours of research, reading, educating MYSELF, first.
I’ve taken the reigns. I am going to walk into that IEP this time like a boss, because, I am. You’ve heard it a thousand times, I had heard it a thousand times, “no one advocates for your child more than YOU”… I guess I never knew what that meant until now. Now I know, now I see, and I can never UNSEE again.
How am I going to do that, advocate better, you may be wondering. Well for starters, I am going to pray (you knew I’d get back there at some point I hope). Truly, I am going to pray. I am going to pray that the “team” opens their hearts, their minds, their wallets, and their spirit to do what is in the best interest for my child even if it is HARD, EXPENSIVE, and has NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE. I am going to ask for what I truly want for my child, what I as his mother, his advocate, KNOWS will be helpful and supportive in his academics so that he can be successful. I am no longer going to allow them to paraphrase my parental concerns. I am going to hand then a typed up page of EXACTLY what my concerns are for my child especially with regards to his academics and I am going to ask that these concerns be entered into the record verbatim this time so that our REAL concerns are documented. I am going to ask for goals that are academic based and have supports built in. I am going to ask for a LOT of accommodations knowing that some may be handled in other areas or ways, but what I have learned is, if it is not written down they do not haveto do it. So, write it down and when we feel he no longer needs that support (to get to PE and get changed in a specific allotted amount of time, for example) then the accommodation can be removed. I am going to speak to my child, his father, and together we as a family will create a VISION for his future, we are going to ask the team to join us in making this vision a reality. I am going to ask questions, LOTS of questions. For example, if my son is in a behavioral program at school why is there no BIP in place? A Behavioral Intervention Plan is not written out for a child in a behavior program is kin to saying oh we know this kid is allergic to peanuts but I was out that day and a sub cook from the other kitchen filled in. PUT IT IN WRITING.
The DEATH SPIRAL has to have been for something, it was. I have learned so much. I have read so much. I have watched so many YouTube videos, I have written so many notes that my hands are very confused and thought they forgot they had to know how to do that; you know, hold a pen. After all of that spiraling, I fall face first into the dirt from exhaustion and can learn no more for this round, I create the bullet pointed notes to take into the meeting, it is then I realize….. I’ve come full circle.
It all comes back to, my child has major executive functioning deficits that keep him from his full learning potential and now I need the team to build the bridge to success for him.
So… here I go again… 3 days until the IEP…. I’m starting the prayer again… Dear Lord… please help the IEP team open their hearts, minds, wallets and souls in order to do the best they can for my child.
Say it with me, will you?