The IEP & I

Photo by Amy Storch
It's IEP season, chickadees! The most wonderful time of the year for special-needs parents.

Have you had your meeting yet? How did it go? *nods sympathetically* Yeah. Totally. I don't know why they have to schedule them in the morning either -- it makes it so hard to justify drinking that entire bottle of wine ahead of time.


If you no idea what I'm talking about, lemme steal something from Wikipedia real quick:

"In the United States an Individualized Education Program, commonly referred to as an IEP, is mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In Canada and the United Kingdom, an equivalent document is called an Individual Education Plan.

In the US, IDEA requires public schools to develop an IEP for every student with a disability who is found to meet the federal and state requirements for special education. The IEP must be designed to provide the child with a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). The IEP refers both to the educational program to be provided to a child with a disability and to the written document that describes that educational program."

(You know the government is involved when you see THAT MANY acronyms.)

Depending on your child's needs and your school district's ability and/or willingness to provide and/or recognize those needs, IEP meetings can be awesomely collaborative encounters, a tedious game of tug-of-war or even downright hostile. I know parents who have hired educational advocates and lawyers to attend the meetings with them, and parents who have essentially gone home and put their house on the market so they could move to a better school district.

We've been incredibly lucky; our IEP meetings have always fallen more in that "awesomely collaborative" category (which just the occasional smidge of tug-of-war). A lot of that is simply thanks to where we live and the amount of money that flows to special-ed programs and the emphasis our state puts on early education. Some of it is probably thanks to our time in Early Intervention, which routinely sent us information about the IEP process -- and much of that information was absolutely terrifying, making it sound like we should show up always prepared to fight, with mouth guards and boxing gloves. But it made damn sure that we were prepared, either way.

And a lot of it is thanks to the people we've encountered on the other side of the table: passionate, caring, determined to help every child to the best of their ability. They've always been honest with us about the school district's limitations as well. (Noah does not qualify as speech delayed or disabled in the eyes of our district, which is laughable, so we keep bringing it up again and again.) (While sending him to the private speech therapy that even our [evil, ridiculous] health insurance agrees that he totally needs, WTF.)

But I still find the whole thing so stressful. What if they want to reduce services, or try to tell us he's fine now? What if they aren't seeing enough progress and are concerned about something we've assumed is okay? Will he qualify for extended school year? Some of it is probably a bit post-traumatic stress from memories of some really rough evaluations that produced really rough results. I'm quite able to walk into a conference room expecting good news, just yet.

So what about you? Have you had your meeting yet? How did it go? And how did you cope?

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