Every year about this time, parents of special ed or gifted kids start re-reading old IEPs, Googling measurable goals, and making lists of questions for the annual meeting about the modifications to their child’s education plan. I’ve been doing this for a very long time but I always get nervous anyway. So far, knock on wood, I’ve been very lucky and only had one cantankerous meeting that, because I was prepared wasn’t actually an issue at all in the end.
I’m at the advantage because there aren’t many services my son needs – some flexibility in the classroom when he needs to stand up or wiggle a bit, a safe place to decompress if he is having a really bad day, and a teacher who isn’t a “quiet hands” sort of teacher who redirects an obnoxious stim rather than scolding him for it. A lot of families I know need a whole lot more than that and it’s a fight for them in ways I’ve never had to deal with.
I’ve been dealing with IEPs for a long time, I even did a weekend seminar/class to be better able to deal with them not just for my own kids but for the families I’ve come across with my support group. I think when you know what you’re dealing with – the language, the pretty standard format, and very few deviations from the standard protocol, you’re able to go into that meeting with confidence. During the Wrightslaw seminar (if they are in your area and you deal with IEPs or 504s it’s worth the time and money to go – you will never regret it) they talk a lot about separating your emotions to be a better advocate for your child and I’ve never gotten better advice. If you leave your emotions at the door, it’s a lot easier to work with the give and take there has to be in a situation like this.
For me, this year was a bit more fraught than usual as we’re transitioning toward middle school and that’s an enormous change. There are so many new things to worry about and so many changes and I’ve heard so many horror stories that all begin in middle school. Fortunately, I have a great team and very little was changed from last year so we’ll just have to see how it goes. The best part of an IEP is that we can always change it if we need to. If what we have put together doesn’t work in practice, we can reconvene and try again. Hopefully we won’t have to but it’s nice to know we can. Now I can get back to my normal work writing stories and such now. Relief is the word of the day.