Tis the Season, IEP Season

It’s time.  The notice came in the mail.  A long list of therapists and teachers was printed.  A date was proposed.  I accepted.  It’s coming.
It’s time for my son’s annual IEP review.
You feel my anxiety on this, right?  Even during the times when you don’t anticipate a fight when you think it will all be okay, and just when it’s becoming routine, you feel that lump in your throat creeps up on you.  You realize that IEPs will never seem routine.  They’ll never be comfortable.  You’ll always go in anticipating a fight.
Even though I’ve spent the past several days preparing for my son’s IEP meeting tomorrow – gathering and filing paperwork in my son’s binders and making lists of desired goals and current concerns – I never feel fully prepared.  Really, I’ve been “preparing” for this IEP for the past year.  I prepare by being a presence at my child’s school.  I volunteer as often as I can.  I serve as Room Mom for my son’s special needs Pre-K class.  I desperately try to maintain a good relationship with each and every person in that building, because I want that to carry over to our IEP meeting.  It’s the old adage, “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”
Here’s the thing – we’ve been in the IEP/IFSP game for 2 years now.  In that time, I’ve helped develop an IEP and 3 IFSPs for my boy.  I’ve never had a “bad” meeting with the exception of that initial IFSP in which I first heard my son’s delays fully explained, but I still go into each meeting with the fear that this will be the first.
Why?  Because everyone tells me it will be bad, that’s why!  I hear horror stories weekly about awful IEPs with adversarial administrators and it scares the you-know-what out of me.
But…does it have to be that way?  Do we have to go into IEPs feeling like we’re about to get screwed? You see, the way I think about it is that my child is about to be 4 years old.  This means that he has the potential to be at this school for 7 more school years.  I can’t make enemies.  I just can’t.  My kid has to be there too long.  We have to work together.  I can’t go into every meeting feeling like I’m about to get ambushed.
I can go in prepared, wise, and ready to make my case.  I have to not be naive and allow the school to walk all over me, but I do need to go in with the assumption that they have my son’s best interest at heart.  If I don’t, then how can I trust my child’s education and care to these individuals for 180 school days each year?  I have to have faith in my fellow man (or woman, as is often the case in special education) and believe that they are in this to help my baby, and that’s what I plan to do.
Bringing some cupcakes, tea, and coffee probably doesn’t hurt, either.

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Jeanie Devine

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