Fine. I’m awake.
It’s IEP Day.
Ugh. Come on, brain— you too, body. We can do this…
Coffee. Yes… let’s start there.
Which kind of k-cup today? Fuck that. It’s a whole pot kind of a day… with the big travel cup. It’s IEP Day.
Kirk? No… he’s holding out for Dunkin’. Dunkin’ is his drug of choice.
Okay… what else do I need?
Definitely a pen and paper. I have my planner in my purse… it’s full of swear words, but that’s fine… There’s bound to be a blank page in it somewhere…
Would it be overkill to bring two coffees just for myself?
And so it began.
Nolan’s annual IEP meeting was Friday—or as we call it at our house Finish Strong Friday. While I certainly hoped we would be finishing the week strong, it can be hard to know what you’ll get walking into an IEP.
Some years we walk in feeling good about what’s happening at school and leave ready to punch someone in the throat. Other years we walk in ready to fight only to have Nolan’s behavior and progress praised.
For those of you who may not be familiar, IEP stands for Individualized Education Plan. Every student in the US who receives special education accommodations has one according to federal law. And at least once every calendar year, schools are required to meet with parents to review goals and progress of the past year and set a plan going forward.
They can be called more frequently if either school or parents request, but generally that means something needs serious fixing. We’re grateful to only have needed them as often as the law requires so far.
Needless to say, they can be stressful. They’re sort of like Parent Teacher Conferences on steroids. And maybe speed. It’s not only Nolan’s teacher and parents, but also his Adaptive PE teacher, his Speech Therapist, a school nurse or health aid, sometimes an art teacher or paraprofessional, school psychologist, a member of the administration (usually), our county social worker, and sometimes assorted other team players… let’s just say it’s a room full, and it can feel very much “us against them”.
Sometimes there are differences of opinions, sometimes we don’t feel heard (and I’m sure school staff would say the same), and sometimes we chit chat for much longer than we’ve scheduled enough time for. If there’s one thing that I can know going in, it’s that no two IEP meetings are alike.
We went in mentally prepared to defend ourselves. But Nolan is having a good year. Three years into middle school, he finally seems to have found his groove. And he and his teacher have started to “get” each other. Plus his bowels haven’t forced him to miss days and days of school, so his routine hasn’t been constantly interrupted like in past years.
This year, no one left the room feeling too stabby— at least not from what I could tell. Everyone agrees that Nolan is a much smarter kid than any existing test can measure accurately. And we got to hear the kinds of things that all parents want to hear about their kids— he’s getting along with his peers, he’s growing his skills, and he’s even surprising staff with just how sweet he can be.
It seems our favorite guy has also been putting his flirty eyes to work. “He just communicates so much with his eyes…” was one of the comments that stuck in my head. And of course he does— just like his Grandpa Doug. By the time I met Kirk’s dad, his Multiple Sclerosis had made verbal communication a challenge for him. But holy crap could that man flirt— it was all in the eyes. Nolan definitely takes after him.
It can be hard to see him grow up… We want to hold on to that tiny boy who relied so heavily on us for so long and shelter him from all of the bad things the world might throw his way. It’s downright scary to think about what his future might hold, but I’m excited for the opportunities that lie ahead for him next year in high school.
Sure, high school can be terrifying, but the same can be said for middle school-- maybe even more so (Have you met 13-year-old girls? They can be scarier than running out of coffee on IEP Day). And as we look toward high school, we’re feeling far better than we expected to. He’ll have new adventures like adaptive sports league and working in the school cafeteria, and it’ll be fun to watch him grow and learn. I’m sure he’ll make us proud-- just like he already does..
So this year? We survived IEP day.
Next time? Who knows.