I.E.P. Individualized Education Program / Plan. Really such a very simple concept…..a written document to support children up to age 21 with special needs in which their services are described and goals and objectives are laid out. There are periodic meetings to determine progress and make modifications. Sometimes these interim meetings are mandated, other times they’re more impromptu. But it really is quite simple on the face of it.
I have probably sat in on 10 meetings to date to support my children. Some of these meetings have been annual reviews, others have been periodic reviews or opportunities to discuss issues such as placement or suggested / required assessments. All of the meetings have been with individuals who genuinely appear to care about my children and really do seem to want them to be successful. I can’t speak for everyone with that statement, but our experience really has been quite positive. We’ve witnessed great growth in both of our children. We’ve dealt with their struggles and made modifications that we hoped would solve their difficulties. It really has been very beneficial in my own little world.
But that doesn’t change the reality of things. IEPs are anything BUT simple. Every single time I walk into an IEP Meeting, the tension in my muscles is so great I’m not sure how I can sit through a meeting. I always make sure I have a cup of coffee for every meeting. I do this simply to give myself something to hold onto. Something to help keep my mental pacing under control so I don’t blurt out something I will later regret. I walk into every meeting without having slept well the previous night. I play through every point I want to address, all night long. Despite reading all of the supporting documentation 50 times before walking in, I always feel so underprepared. What if I missed something in the teacher report? What if the decisions that we make are wrong? And most importantly, what happens if I am making bad decisions and holding my children back?
While I’m writing this post, I’m sitting between two IEP Meetings. We met yesterday to discuss Ballerina’s transition into kindergarten and make some changes to her plan to address some of the areas that is causing her problems. I was nervous walking into the meeting (as usual), but I thought I was doing OK. Then, when I arrived at the school and saw the team having a discussion (they weren’t ready for me yet) in the meeting room, I realized that I WASN’T doing “OK”. I was a wreck. When they called me in, we had our discussions, we went through the supporting documentation, and we all had our say (myself included). And we made several decisions together that we mutually agreed would be beneficial for Ballerina, including meeting again in December to discuss her progress.
But last night, once the kids were in bed and I had a moment to myself, I was practically in tears. All of the anxiety from the day just came pouring out of me. I realized that my heart had been racing all day and that my stomach felt like the laces Big Brother used to learn to tie his shoes over and over again, full of knots and tangles. Even though we were working together and nothing bad was going to happen, the anxiety just never goes away when you are about to walk into one of those meetings. At least that’s the case for me.
Next week I will be going back into that same room for an annual review of Music Man’s IEP. Because of the time and energy I have been spending dealing with this other meeting, I still have not opened up the supporting documentation that came home earlier this week….the draft IEP, the teacher report, progress notes….none of it. I have decided to give myself a day off from reviewing IEP documentation so that when I look at it tomorrow, I will be slightly more removed from the first meeting and will be able to focus adequately on Music Man. But the anxiety is there. It’s those 3 letters.
Am I alone? Does this ever get easier? The twins are in kindergarten. They will likely have IEPs for many years to come. Is there a magic number? Once I sit through 37 IEP Meetings they will become simple? Or is this how it’s supposed to be?
This is one of those things that I HATE!