As sure as the first flowers are arriving, so is IEP time.
It almost sounds celebratory... but for those who have a special needs child, we know it is not like that.
I know we have an IEP meeting scheduled for Elizabeth on May 29th.
She is 20 years old, but because we chose Option 23, she is technically still under the auspices of our local school system until the age of 22 years old.
So with this in mind, the local schools and the college program she is in meet to form the new IEP that will guide her into the next school year. So even at this age, we are looking at the IEP and making changes.
So with about 16 years of IEP prep times, meetings, re-evaluations and IEP adjustments, I wanted to tell you how I am approaching this meeting:
1. Standardized Testing vs. Necessary Support
IF Elizabeth was given a standardized test right now, I know her scores would not be what we want to see. But, if we were talking with her and helping her organize her thoughts about things like budgets and safety scenarios, she would answer really well.
So my takeaway is to focus on how well she can do when her needed supports are in place. Because that is what she truly needs and how she does best.
So when an IEP time comes, I take a good, truthful look at things like this and gain strength from recognizing her growth.
2. Goals vs. Gains
IF she did not fully reach a goal and it reappears on the IEP, instead of feeling defeated (as I would have many years ago), I tell myself to look at the gains made toward the goal itself. Meaning did she do more steps toward independence? How many steps did she meet?
I try to see the gains made, not what is left until the goals are completely met. This way I try to see what she has accomplished instead of what she did not. And I have learned over the years just how important it is to do this and keep shooting for future successes.
3. Your Goals AND Your Child's Goals
IF I have any real concerns, then I do not hesitate to bring them up or if I have any goals that I know are more in line with Elizabeth’s wishes, then again, I do not hesitate to address them.
Often, goals and experiences can be geared on a default setting kind of mindset, meaning that they are not as tailored to someone’s wishes as much as, I feel, they could be.
LASTLY - and do not do this often - I allow myself to think back to where we started and then think of where she is right now. I do this to keep perspective, to see how far she has come and to know she will continue to succeed. Will it be at the pace of a child who does not have special needs? Probably not. But will she continue to succeed? I truly believe... ABSOLUTELY.
Trust me, I know how hard the experiences are. But preparing a good mindset before and allowing yourself to feel whatever you feel after the meeting is really important to successfully getting through another IEP season.
And just like the early Spring flowers that are here then fade away, the IEP season does the same thing.
Good luck to all!
I wish everyone a peaceful month and I will let you know how our meeting goes!
Michele Gianetti is a mom of three, registered nurse, and published author ("I Believe in You," "Emily's Sister"). She writes for TalkTools Blog every month about her experience caring for Elizabeth, her daughter with Sensory Processing Disorder and Dyspraxia. Follow her story since the beginning here.