Maura’s IEP is coming up. At the sight of those letters – short for Individualized Education Program - every parent of a child with an IEP just shuddered.
So the idea that I’m here, going “Eh” over the IEP, is amazing, even to me.
Back in Michigan, we had to fight for everything for Maura. Not just us as parents, but some of those working with her had to fight to make sure she got what she needed, what she actually needed. Not just what the barest of minimums forced them to give. I went into every IEP knowing how so many people had our backs, were going to make sure Maura had as much as they could give her, and I appreciated every one of them for working with us, and for Maura.
But it was draining. And disheartening. I cried – and I never cry at stuff. IEPs made me cry. I had to make sure I did my homework, had The Binder with all of Maura’s stuff in it, I would contact people by email, then print out every email conversation and put it in the binder. I had a book to guide me through the legalities of the IEP. I talked to people, to outside therapists and other parents, to find out what they thought Maura would need, what their kids were getting, what worked for them. Then, when the day of the IEP came, I’d arrange for babysitting, because I knew I’d be there for hours. Seriously. Four hours once, with fourteen people. They never had a conference room big enough for Maura’s IEPs.
Why so long and so many? Because at the time, the school didn’t have children with special needs, not like Maura’s. It was her and one other student her age with the same levels of disabilities, and they weren’t sure what to do with them. We were the proverbial guinea pigs the entire time we were in Michigan – for the new special ed preschool program, for the new resource room in the elementary school they had to create to handle a child like Maura, for inclusion to this degree. It was a bit scary, I can admit that.
So four hour IEPs that left me feeling unsure became the norm. Battles with the special ed director became the norm. Ranting about the special ed director (who at one point told me my signature wasn’t necessary for the IEP) became too much of a norm.
To sit here, four years later, and have an IEP looming and the thought of it doesn’t make me want to drink? That is still a gift I can’t get over. I cherish the idea that I don’t have to worry and wind myself up and gird loins for battle. I love the idea that an IEP doesn’t have to mean instant crazy-making. I could hug each member of our current IEP team who make all this non-craziness possible. I wish that every parent could have this good of an experience. And I will never take it for granted, because I know that this could all change. I could go back to the old ways, the tension and the tears and the loins girded for battle.
I’d rather not though. I’d rather keep our new nice IEP ways.
Oh, I’ll have notes. Suggestions as to how to help Maura grow and mature. Questions as to why she’s being such a pill at school (go figure, she’s an angel at home!). Questions about her future in this program (which I’m not doubting, she’s earned her place in the life skills program, just that she’ll be transitioning to middle school next year.) And a couple apologies for being a slacker parent this year (though in my defense, I never even saw the paperwork sent home the other day, just the mangled note saying “Please send completed forms back…” – Maura beat me to her folder and took care of the forms for me. Oops.)
The IEP will be a meeting as to how we can all help Maura grow. As it should be. And I am thankful for it, and this program Maura’s in, every single day. Because I know it could be worse. I have been there. And I never want to go back.