Individualized Education Program (IEP) -A document created and managed by a team of people (including teachers, special education personnel, parents, doctors, etc.) for each special needs child. This document outlines the student’s individual objectives and accommodations needed to be successful in traditional public school.
Q’s IEP is more than just a small stack of papers. It’s the guidelines that level the playing field for him. It’s the make or break of him being successful in school. It’s the key that helps his teachers understand him. It’s a collection of several peoples thoughts & ideas. Q’s IEP contains more than just our goals for him & accommodations needed to help him be successful. It contains stress. It contains tears. It contains second guesses and what ifs. It contains hope. It contains success. It contains failures. It is built around observations and surveys. It’s reinforced by testing. It is a 10+ page agreement that promises Q his parents, teachers, and school staff are committed to him being successful at school.
Several meetings surround the IEP. From creating to revising, there is always a meeting. I’ve attended many IEP meetings since Q has started school. The average number of attendees is usually around 6. One being me, the parent, and the rest being teachers, therapists, principals, and special education staff. I can’t tell you how intimidating it is to sit at a table with 5 sets of eyes looking at you, debating with you, and questioning you about YOUR child. I’ve had to stand my ground and literally argue to get what I think is best and fair for Quin. I have had to stop the meeting and cry. The people in this meeting should be on the same team. We SHOULD be people who genuinely love Q and want to do what’s best for him to succeed. Before we changed schools, IEP meetings were straight up AWFUL. I dreaded the meetings and I left with so much anger and frustration. Since we’ve been at Q’s new school, and surrounded by people who genuinely care, IEP meetings contain more laughs than tears and the feeling of teamwork and support is ever present.
Not even gonna lie, I’ve cried so much about this darn IEP. The tears start on the first page…where someone from the IEP team outlines your child…the good such as their preferences and strengths …the bad such as their weaknesses, their negative behaviors, and their diagnoses . The bad is hard. It’s HARD to read such negative truths about your child. To read, in black and white, other people’s negative observations of your child is a sting felt so deep I can’t explain it but my fellow SPED mommas know that sting all to well. The tears continue onto the next few pages which are goals. The tears here are usually from frustration because the goals seem so easy for “normal” kids and here I am hoping my kid masters it before the end of the school year. For example, one of Q’s goal for the upcoming year is to increase his GenEd time 3/5 days. “Normal” kids achieve this goal easily every single day while my child struggles to leave the SPED room a few times a week. It’s a jealously fueled frustration. The last few pages talk about the accommodations needed to achieve the goals. Queue the tears again. I mean who wants to read that their child needs visual clues, assistive technology devices, and token economies to achieve a basic day at school. It’s downright hard not to cry when you read this document.
We’re fortunate that we have an IEP team who take this document very seriously. I’ve heard many horror stories of school districts dragging their feet on creating the IEP, denying the child needs one, and not following the IEP once it’s implemented. I’m so thankful this isn’t the case with us because quite frankly I couldn’t imagine having to pony up for an attorney to attend these meetings with me.
While there are a lot of tears & headaches put into an IEP, it’s absolutely necessary for kids like Q. Without these goals & accommodations, he wouldn’t be successfully finishing up his kindergarten year. So while I hate crying in front of my son’s principal and teachers, I’m thankful they care enough to listen and work with me to set a plan that’s perfect for Q. And despite the fact that Excedrin ain’t cheap, I’m fueled by passion and these “passion headaches” are worth it because Q wakes up EXCITED to go to school.
Any of my fellow SPED mommas feel like doing some tequila shots after an IEP Meeting?