I got a call last week from the secretary of the special education department at our school.  She told me, in a happy voice,  “Now that Elizabeth will be 22 years old, she is now done with Option 23.  This means she is finished, done.”   ……..

You see, we opted for what is called Option 23, which in Ohio means that a student can stay in the “school system” after graduation until the age of 22 years old. For us, this meant that in the post secondary school ( the college program)  we had an IEP to direct her goals etc.  It also meant we were still linked to the school in terms of IEP meetings, talking to the director of special education about reports and the like.

“You can come and pick up Elizabeth’s diploma at the high school office whenever you want to…..”

I have plans this week to run over and pick it up. We were not supposed to “accept” the diploma at graduation, but hand it back after the ceremony.  I was told if we accepted it, we could not continue with Option 23.  So we handed it back on graduation day. And now, I am told I can get it.  I must admit, I am a bit pensive about getting the diploma because I know that it will simply be handed over to me.  I will say thank you and go home.  I don’t know what  I wish to happen but it just seems like such a subdued exit for what was always such huge emotional moments related to any and all trips to the school regarding Elizabeth.

What will be a matter of a smooth transaction for the diploma will be in such direct contrast to the nerves and emotions typically felt as we sat with the IEP team discussing her special needs, being asked again about her dyspraxia and teaching them again just how her sensory processing disorder affects her day.

This simple end of her journey in the school system is in blazing contrast to the complex, tangled, joyful, successful and struggling journey we have had her whole life.

I do not need to sign anything like before when I signed 100 forms.

I do not need to tell them when I am coming to get the diploma like  before when we had a specific date and time for everything.

I do not need to tell them what we are doing next like before when we were mandated to tell all.

It is weird to me, to see the end of this part of her road as we have been on it for so long.

….“No more IEP’S Mrs. Gianetti”  was the next statement made by the secretary.

Maybe she is right, we won’t have any more IEP’s or meetings to discuss IEP’s or progress reports related to the IEP.  But in reality, we are not done.  As I have said before, we are a work in progress and what we are doing for our goals, may not be stated in official IEP format, but they will be there and we will be working.

So I am going over to get the diploma and as I do I will be thinking of my own words…

I always talked about “being in the moment” as well as keeping your eyes on the next step you may need to make for your child. We literally have to do that to make sure we don’t get so involved in our current world, therapies and needs, that we look up to find ourselves at the end of a “road”, not having realized it was coming and potentially find ourselves not knowing what road is next for us.

I need to keep doing that because our journey continues…  just this one path has ended.

I wish everyone a peaceful week.

Michele Gianetti author of “I Believe In You: A Mother and Daughter’s Special Journey” and “Emily’s Sister