One of the less fun things that we get to do here in Rettland is have an annual IEP. Once a year, right before Claire’s birthday I get to sit down with all of the people from the school and go over her Individual Education Plan. This covers all sorts of stuff, like the footstool that she needs by the toilet in the bathroom, how much time she needs to be on her feet each day, how she will be tested and what she will learn, or ‘work on’ as they say. When we first started this process, just before Claire turned 3, it was very ugly. I had to record everything because our school violated so many of Claire’s rights as well as federal law. Eventually it got a little bit better, but not by much. Each year I had to get each assessment, go through it with a fine tooth comb and then go and educate the team about how they were setting Claire up to fail or not seeing what she is capable of.
For years I have started the meeting with a story. A story of how Claire was a healthy normal baby. I explain how she still is that same normal girl that can understand but that her body isn’t working. I tell them of the hope of the research happening. How I don’t want to have to explain to Claire that we let her fall behind because we didn’t believe in her once she gets a treatment that lets her use her body. Over the years I have spent an enormous amount of time begging for her team to see what I see and to treat her for the normal girl that she is, but not this year.
Yesterday’s meeting was surreal. I am pretty sure that at this point, Claire’s teach gets her and how she learns more than I do. I honestly didn’t bother looking at the draft they gave me until the day of the meeting. The report said things like, “Claire has made great progress toward her goals.” “Claire is a second grade student with typical likes and dislikes.” and with the progress for each goal this statement followed ” It should be noted that due to her orthopedic impairment and severe apraxia, data may not clearly show her true understanding.” I wept happy tears as I read over this instead of the typical red lines and angry comments in the margins. They get her.
This year the meeting opened differently. I thanked them for the attention and love that went into the assessments and reports. I told them how we will be traveling to Boston a few times over the next year and how Claire may present a little different when the day comes that she is receiving the treatment. Yes, I pretty much just said keep it up and take good notes. Sure there was a bit of a conversation over the communication goal that the new SLP wrote, I know that with time Claire will win her over so no worry there.
The only thing that I can’t understand is why, even when I know it is going to be great, I get so nervous driving to the meeting that I nearly pass out. It just stinks that we have to be having the discussion. Despite the meeting going great and everyone being in agreement (which is insanely rare) I was absolutely exhausted on every level. I guess it isn’t that strange, to have even the good stuff exhaust you, when you are in Rettland.
Now that this is behind us I guess all I have to do is just show up each day and enjoy the beauty of watching second graders be second graders without having to worry about much else at school. I think it will be harder than it sounds to just get to be a parent and not an advocate but I am up to the challenge.