Anticipation of an IEP (Individualized Education Program) for special-needs people  can be painful.  I remember not being able to sleep on the nights before our son’s IEPs.

An IEP is  held as long as the person’s program is funded by a school district, usually until age 21.  Some of those in attendance are the parents, some of the teachers, advocates for the special-needs person on behalf of the parents and the school district representative (who makes the decisions to allow or not allow additional services or programs.)  The special-needs person is always invited but in our reality, this guy doesn’t sit through meetings!

This week is our son’s annual IEP. Some of the anticipation comes from remembering painful meetings from the past.

There have been IEPs in which school district representatives made decisions not in our son’s best-interest.  We would request more help for him; the bottom-line was that there were not enough funds to provide it.  Sometimes they would bring in school therapists or psychologists who would say that he didn’t need the services and it was difficult not to tell them that we know our son better than they.  We are labeled by them as “lay care givers” and they label themselves as the experts.

We are always outnumbered by professionals in the meetings and only they are allowed to take what they called valid notes for the record.  I remember re-reading their notes and finding parts that were way off the mark with regard to what our son needed, followed by a line such as “Parents agree with this decision.”  I also remember how restless the school district representative became while we re-read her notes, saying that she had an important meeting that she needed to leave for, but I kept reading anyway.  I did not give in to the pressure.  But the pressure was there and it is remembered with each year’s IEP.

To be continued…

8 thoughts on “The IEP

  1. You are so right! Parents are the real experts on their children. I sat in those meetings as a “professional expert,” before being a parent. Professionals certainly have expertise to offer, but it is the parents who truly know their children. In the ideal world, everyone at the table would respect each other and work together with the child’s true best interests in mind.

  2. I have had the good fortune to work with many great parents at IEP meetings. I have also experienced the frustration of a parent who is is denial about their child’s abilities. This happens in both directions: they think their child cannot do as much as he truly can, or they expect us to bring their child up to grade-level in a year’s time whe she has been languishing in public school for years before transferring to our program. Luckily, our administration is very supportive of both teachers and parents (which is essential… 100% of our student body has either an IEP or a 504), and I have never seen services denied.

    • Danielle – good news like this is always welcome, and of course over the course of a kid’s life, the vast majorities of IEPs are at a maintenance level (not controversial) or even add some good things. I think the stress level that is naturally carried into such meetings can color one’s perception and memories. More about this on Thurs., looking at what the feelings can do with the parents/care givers outside of the meeting (which isn’t always helpful to the meeting itself).

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