The IEP Is Not About Me
by Tracey Solomon
I hoped the noise of recess would camouflage my stomachís rumbling. My hands were so sweaty, I figured Iíd look like a giant raisin by the time this parent/teaching team meeting was over. The only thing keeping me from hyperventilation was the shortness of the chair legs. My head was already between my knees. Breathe, Tracey. Itís fine. I tried to convince myself.
I might have smiled when the teaching team came in. I also might have shot defensive daggers from my eyes. This was it ó the meeting where it would be decided that Iíd failed as a mom. I wondered if theyíd already called Social Services. Do they drive unmarked cars? I glanced out the window at the parking lot.
My sonís teaching team asked questions and made suggestions. They said normal words like fine motor skills and language. But then they said learning disability and testing. Thus began my out-of-mommy experience. I pretended to listen but in my mind I hovered above the tiny table, arguing.
I have brilliant children. You must be mistaken. I wished Iíd brought our ACT scores as evidence. Look, I have ADD and he doesnít. So there is no learning disability. Youíre wrong. I thought about confessing failure as a former homeschooler. Thereís nothing wrong with my kid! I just failed as a homeschooler.
Instead I sat there, trying to quietly swallow my guilt and failure. I tried to listen to their opinions while I silently told myself the truth.
The truth is, the IEP meeting* is not about me. Itís not about blaming me for passing along my learning disability. Itís not about my failings as a homeschooler or parent.
Itís about getting my son the help he needs.
This wasnít even my first IEP. Iíd been there in the past as support for my pastoral counseling clients. I should have been prepared. It was my first IEP as the parent of the child, though. Itís a whole different ball game when the child youíre discussing is your own.
Familiar words rolled through my mind like wispy clouds of truth. Each child is different. There is a strength for every weakness. Itís not about intelligence; itís about how he learns and how we can help. Itís not about blaming; itís about finding answers. I struggled to believe in those wisps.
Then came the paperwork ó more than when we closed on our house. Permission for testing; signatures stating we understood our rights to an effective education. I may have signed over a kidney. I stopped reading after the third page. Before we left, we scheduled a meeting to discuss the results.
In the meantime, this is what I know: the results donít change who my kid is. He is brilliant, funny, loving and a joy. He may also have a learning disability. The results donít change who I am. I am a good mother, who loves her son and does the best she can, and gets the help her family needs.
*IEP stands for Individual Education Plan