As sure as the first flowers are arriving, so does IEP time.

It almost sounds celebratory….but for those who have a special needs child, we know it is not like that.
I know we don’t have an IEP meeting scheduled for Elizabeth but I so remember the feelings and the preparations for them.

We had our fair share of IEP meetings and preparations. Elizabeth actually had a few extra ones as she participated in our state’s offerings of Option 23 which allowed her to stay in the auspices of the school system until the age of 22 years old. So good for us, we got to do this even MORE times than usual!

So, with these years of IEP prep times, meetings, re-evaluations and IEP adjustments, I wanted to tell you how I approached these tough and emotional meetings:

-If Elizabeth was given a standardized test right now, I know her scores would not be what we want to see. But, if we were talking with her and helping her organize her thoughts about things like budgets and safety scenarios, she would answer really well.

So my take away, is to focus on how well she can do when her needed supports are in place. Because that is what she truly needs and how she does best.

So when an IEP time comes, I take a good, truthful look at things like this and gain strength from recognizing her growth.

-IF she did not fully reach a goal and it reappears on the IEP, instead of feeling defeated ( as I would have many years ago)

I tell myself to look at the gains made toward the goal itself. Meaning did she do more steps toward independence? How many steps did she meet?

I try to see the gains made not what is left until the goals are completely met. This way I try to see what she has accomplished instead of what she did not.

And I have learned over the years just how important it is to do this and keep shooting for future successes.

-IF I have any real concerns then I do not hesitate to bring them up or if I have any goals that I know are more in line with Elizabeth’s wishes then again, I do not hesitate to address them.

Often, goals and experiences can be geared on a default setting kind of mind set, meaning, that they are not as tailored to someone’s wishes as much as, I feel, they could be.

-LASTLY and do not do this often, I allow myself to think back to where we started and then think of where she is right now. I do this to keep perspective, to see how far she has come and to know she will continue to succeed. Will it be at the pace of a child who does not have special needs? Probably not. But will she continue to succeed? I truly believe ….ABSOLUTELY!!!

Trust me, I know how hard the experiences are. But preparing a good mindset before and allowing yourself to feel whatever you feel after the meeting is really important to successfully getting through another IEP season.

And just like the early Spring flowers that are here then fade away, the IEP season does the same thing.
Good luck to all!

I wish everyone a peaceful month and the strength and courage you need as you enter your IEP meetings!

Michele Gianetti author of I Believe In You