Friday, March 23, 2012

IEP Day

Today was IEP day, or "Individual Education Plan" day for those of you who are not familiar with educational mumbo-jumbo. This is the day when we meet with all of Abby's teachers and the support staff that work with her, to discuss her progress thus far, and create goals and plans for next school year. Imagine a parent-teacher conference on steroids. These things always stress me out. Maybe if I set the scene you'll see why.

Cast of Characters:
Teacher Consultant
Occupational Therapist
Physical Therapist
Speech Therapist
Special Education Teacher
Classroom Teacher
Parents
Secretary


Setting:
The play takes place in a large conference room, with an imposing wooden table in the center, around which are several chairs. All the teachers are seated at various positions around the table with large stacks of papers in front of them. The TC (Teacher Consultant) is armed with a formidable computer, she is alternately typing and checking paperwork. Two chairs are left open across from all the others, for the parents. Those seated around the table are talking softly and riffling through paperwork, but stop abruptly when the parents are ushered in by the secretary.

Now, having been on the "teacher side" of the table, I know that there is no intention of putting parents on guard, or making them feel uncomfortable, in fact, it is just the opposite, but whenever this meeting approaches I can't help but get anxious about what they will tell me. See, early on, for the first few meetings we had with the specialists that worked with Abby, I came in feeling so very positive. I was excited to hear what they would tell me. In my opinion she was doing wonderfully. She was beautiful  and strong, and excelling beyond my expectations, but then they began comparing her to "typical" children. They gave her tests and evaluations that "typical" children would get and then told us where she fit in the scheme of things. They wrote down her "deficiencies" in black and white, using formal and clinical language to describe our miracle. Jason and I both left those meetings depressed and disheartened, and it was all I could do to save my tears for the car ride home. Despite the fact that the meetings have vastly improved, the old fears are not forgotten so easily.

Today, due to a meeting Jason was unable to attend Abby's IEP, I was determined that I would be just fine. Of course my anxieties got a hold of me, but this year I tried to move beyond them. I remembered that Abby has done so well, and we have been thrilled with all that she has learned. I couldn't imagine that everyone else wouldn't feel the same - still, I was on guard as I approached the school.

I'm happy to say that today's meeting was nothing like the others I've described. Sure, we sat around a big wooden table, but what made the difference was that for the first time those gathered made me feel like a part of the team. It was less of a formal meeting, and more of a chance to share the wonderful strides that Abby has made this year. We swapped funny Abby stories and charming Abby moments, at the same time talking about ways that we might help her both at school and at home, and the only time I got teary was while thanking them all for their hard work and all that they do for us.

I left feeling lighter and happier, with a incredibly positive feeling and a big smile on my face. What a great way to start the weekend.

Today was pajama day. Abby's teacher told
me that she wasn't getting too much done today
because she kept turning to people and telling
them how cute she looked in her jammies. Yep,
that sounds like our Abby.

Abby sporting some of her "jewels". Her O.T.
shared with me today that she can get Abby to work
better for her, if she lets Abby wear her jewelry.
That's my girl!


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