It is a rare and elusive thing for me lately. The “successful” IEP meeting. My son has issues, therefor the school district has him on an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
This is a fancy way of saying my kid requires a team of people to be able to keep afloat in school. We got beyond that emotional roller coaster in first grade. I sat in on these meetings as a professional back in my pre-child life. In the “what was” nether of time. As a parent, however, it’s a whole different show.
I have dealt with the guilt associated with a kid who has learning disabilities/delays. I have dealt with the frustration of feeling like ‘why does my kid have to be the different one’, blah blah blah. It all sounds so victim-oriented, and in a way it is. It very much is a feeling of that as a parent because honestly you are navigating choppy, hostile, uncharted waters through a monumentally-sized hurricane with zero compass all while exhausted from the sheer reality of living with a kid who has these demands. It takes a toll on your relationships. Relationships with your husband, your friends, you social group who may or may not want your kid around their kids, your family and their own personal opinions, societal expectations. The whole thing, quite frankly, is a shit show. But we’re through the worst of it at this point. He’s 9. I feel a little like i’m running the rodeo now more than I was when he was, say 3, and I felt like the clown just trying to dodge the angry charging bull.
My attitude at previous school meetings was always coming from a place of “thanks for working with my kid”. I know how hard he can be to deal with. Last year, however, I was less than pleased with his teacher. I completely respect teachers in general, but when my kid gets one who wants to literally do whatever she can to pawn him off on someone else, I no longer have much respect for you. Especially when said teacher touts her length of time with the district as a positive point. All that did for me was question her teaching theory. If you have taught 17 years and still don’t know what to do with a kid with ADHD and some other similar challenges, then maybe you should tweak your career plan. My kid doesn’t have some kind of unknown disability. He isn’t blind and deaf. He doesn’t act out in class even. You can’t handle a kid whose slightly below grade level?! If that is the biggest challenge to have in 17 years of teaching, it’s time to branch out.
So back to today. Having to deal with countless conferences and emails with the last one, I have brought myself leaps and bounds forward with my expectations of how things are gonna go at these team meetings now. This morning I was very proud that I layed down the law a little as an advocate for my kid. I have always advocated for him, but I had an itemized list in my head of the things I felt were done wrong last year, and today I listed those things for them and let them all know that I expected better and more of all of them.
They seemed to take it well as they were all furiously jotting down points and facts while nodding their heads and murmuring, “I completely agree”.
What that translates to I still don’t know, but at least I didn’t leave feeling like they were being burdened with a task of working with my child but rather challenged to think outside the box and draw up a plan that will work.
My best lines went something like, “Last year all I heard about was how he isn’t working at grade level, how he’s behind, and how he can’t keep up. This is not news, people. This is nothing new and it’s not something that’s going to change anytime soon. I no longer want to hear any of those phrases. What I expect to hear from here on out is where he’s grown, how good he’s doing on _____, and what the plan is to get him to a level where he needs to be.”
At one point someone began talking about how he still needs to be redirected a bunch to which I said, “He is now on medication. He was successful at therapy all summer. I’ve sat with him for homework which he now completes start to finish. His medicine is working, as far as I’m concerned, but that’s not going to be a magical solution for you guys. Move forward with that knowledge and do with it what you will.” and that seemed to squash all the moaning and groaning about keeping him on task.
Sidenote: I know how frustrating it must have been to work with a kid who is actually very intelligent. How do you motivate a child to pick up a pencil and listen to the instruction when there is a mile of static you have to push through just for him to see you? I know this struggle. I am his parent and this is my life. I have managed to get him this far. You are his instructors and you chose this career. You have tools I was never given. Pull up your diplomas and certificates, strap on those theories and educational models and stop relying on parents to “just medicate”. Work as a team with the parents to get the best from the kid. I’m not looking for a miracle. I’m not expecting him to suddenly achieve a 4.0 grade level status. I just want him to finally know what it feels like to be a successful student! “Just medicate” is not an answer, and I feel like the academic community – at least here – does not at all understand what that phrase means. What does it mean for a parent to get to a point where she finally feels like giving her child an amphetamine every single day is an option? How does that feel as a mother? It feels like complete shit. What makes it acceptable to me, however, is watching my kid take out his homework, sit down with a pencil, begin, ask questions, work out a problem, and finish his homework in a fraction of the time it used to. To get a glimpse at how ‘regular kids’ manage their daily tasks. And to see him complete the process by actually putting the paper back into the folder and then into his backpack?!! That is so stupidly glorious I am almost embarrassed to admit it. But I have to. I have to because parents with typical children who may squabble or hear some groaning have no idea that what I just described has taken years, and now medication, to achieve.
So today I felt like the warrior I needed to be for my kid finally. Perhaps this medication journey has strengthened me a bit for him, and if so i’m grateful. It was nice to walk away from an IEP meeting feeling like I clearly established my expectations and demands for my son rather than overwhelmed and lost about where they can fit him in.