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Friday, November 15, 2013

Victory!

IEP meetings are finally over. I did a lot to prepare for them, and I'm glad I did. As we were going through the meetings, I thought about how lucky I am that I have my social work background, and that I specialized in school social work. IEP meetings are so stressful and confusing, even if you know a little about what you're talking about. I can't imagine how hard it must be for parents who don't have a background in this field, who are being thrown into this for the first time. The laws are intricate, the school policies are complicated, the lingo is foreign...I really feel for parents who aren't used to all this.

We spent four hours at the school yesterday, hashing out how to best help Jonah and Ben. We had Ben's meeting first. The team had to decide if Ben qualifies for special education given his current level of disabilities. The team kept teetering between giving him an IEP and just keeping him on a 504 Plan. I had met with an IEP expert at The Therapy Tree several times to talk about how I could best help the boys get what they need during the meetings, so I was prepared with my points of concern. Every time the team paused and started leaning towards not giving Ben an IEP, I piped up with another valid, well-thought-out concern. It was a long, intense meeting. While the team debated, every cell in my body was screaming "Give him the IEP! Can't you see it's exactly what he needs?" Finally a team member said "Just give it to him! He needs it!" Yes. Yes. Yes. 

The only special education minutes Ben will receive will be social work, which he is already getting weekly anyway, and a special ed resource period. I know Ben may hate this resource period, because there is a smaller ratio of students to teacher, and so more attention will be paid to whether Ben has completed his homework, helping him learn study skills, organization, how to break up long term projects, etc. But this is what he needs. This will help him. Even if he hates it.

Ben will maintain his eligibility for his IEP for three years. So this will carry him through 9th grade. I can't wait to start seeing the benefits of this extra help he will get now.

Jonah still has a 504 Plan because he didn't qualify for an IEP. The good thing was that we amended his 504 to reflect his current level of needs, and so we were able to make sure he is still getting what he needs to succeed at school. I told the team I don't care what we call the plan that the boys qualify for. I don't care if it's a 504 or IEP. What I care about is that there is documentation about how the school will meet the boys' special needs because of their disabilities, so that school is a place the boys can be successful. 

So we're happy. The boys will get what they need at school. The team listened to everything we had to say, all our concerns. We are blessed to live in this district, because this has always been our experience with our school. Every time we have a 504 or IEP meeting, I completely freak out with anxiety. I prepare for weeks ahead of time. I research. I get all my materials together and study them. I ask therapists, psychiatrists, and IEP experts for help. I focus all my energy on figuring out how to best present my concerns so that the school understands what I'm seeing at home and can find a way to help the boys at school. So now that the meetings are done, I'm totally wiped out. I feel like I've been put in a washing machine on spin cycle for weeks. I want to put on a pair of sweats, crawl into bed with my fuzziest socks on, drink hot cocoa with marshmallows, and watch Meg Ryan movies until I feel human again. 

But Jonah is still sick. And kids still have to get up and get help to go to school. And we still have therapies. And the dog still has to go out so he doesn't use my carpet as a toilet. 

So there will be no Meg Ryan movies. Life goes on. I am very happy we have this small victory for the boys. I hope they begin to feel some change in regards to school. I hope things get clearer for them and they're able to function better both at home and school because of the changes we made. Hurray for victories!

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