Today's IEP paperwork is 40 pages long.
Now don't get me wrong -- I realize the IEP is the best single item to create a perfect learning situation and all our future goals for Zack. I know, this, I do.
But IEP Day is my least-favorite day of the year (with the exception of our bi-annual pediatric cardiologist visits).
First of all -- do you know what an IEP is? It's OK, I had no clue before about three years ago.
An Individualized Education Program is a legal document that essentially writes out three things:
1. What your challenges your child has when it comes to an educational experience;
2. Where do we want him to be in six months to a year, and;
3. How will we track our progress for those goals?
Not every student has an IEP; in fact, most don't. About 13 percent of public-school students had an IEP in 2014-2015. We've experienced IEPs in three states now. For the sake of being nice, we won't name names, but I will say that Maryland is impressing me so far and *another* state left a lot to be desired in their entire special education outlook. But that's for another blog post. IEPs are possible thanks mostly to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Zack's IEP is created by his school team -- his special education teacher, general education teacher, speech therapist, occupational therapist, physical therapist and music therapist, with input from his parents, aides, coordinator, counselor, and so on.
When we moved to Maryland in August, we opted to keep our previous state's IEP in place, let Zack get adjusted, try out what was recommended in Spring of this year and then get together for a Maryland IEP meeting in the Fall. So, here we are.
So, the other day, a confidential envelope arrives home and, over a cup of coffee and then perhaps a glass of Chardonnay, I peruse the findings from two months' of observations, the results of a few evaluations and see hard-to-swallow phrases like, "global delays", "playing 'too rough'", "needs supervision" and more. Now, I know all of the things in this packet. There were no surprises (Thank you, Maryland!). But it's still not fun.
For most of our days, Down syndrome isn't on our radar. We eat, laugh, play, do time-outs, snuggle in the mornings, practice shoe-tying and all the other things that keep us busy and happy. We see his improvements, for sure -- his crazy-improving speech, the extended stamina for tabletop activities, the easier time getting on the bus.
But these papers. They throw right in front of my eyes IQ numbers and rankings. They highlight how my child is failing to keep up in so many areas. It's hard not to get stuck on those paragraphs and not the ones that say he is sweet, hard-working, friendly and trying his best.
I don't envy the folks that have to put this together, either. Sometimes our 40-pager is one of a dozen or one of 20 they're keeping track of at any time. That's crazy.
So, yeah, the paperwork shouldn't come in an envelope marked "Confidential." I say it should arrive in a box, slightly chilled, with two bottles of white wine. One for me. And maybe I'll share one with the teachers, aides, therapists and counselors who keep it all together, keep us all on track and keep the future full of potential and hope for our kiddos.
We're not asking for anything too crazy with this IEP. In the past, we've requested additional service hours or the addition of things like sensory or music therapy. We've even had to change transportation directives. This year, we're just asking he get his time with his general education classroom and his special education classroom; that they push him hard but still keep that smile on his face when I say it's time to go to school. We just want what any parent wants for their child, though most of them don't write it out or read it in large legal documents:
We want him prepared. For life. For whatever he wants to do. For whomever he wants to become. And we want him safe, happy and having a ton of fun, too.
Happy IEP Day!