In June, I attended my son’s final Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting of the school year.
G just completed his second of what will be three years of preschool. He has been on an IEP since he started preschool at the local elementary school. Therefore, this meeting wasn’t my first rodeo. However, unlike the previous meetings, I was dreading the end of the year recap. I knew what was coming. I had witnessed his behavior at home and received one or two emails from G’s teacher. Walking in, I was confident what his education team was going to tell me; G was regressing.
After making enormous educational and social strides during the past eighteen months, G had begun to regress to pre-preschool behaviors.
G’s IEP team consisted of his preschool teacher, his speech therapists, and the IEP coordinator. Within moments of walking into the meeting, the team began reviewing the goals and objectives that outlined the backbone of the IEP. They discussed areas where he had regressed and the goals he had fallen short of. I stared blankly at the papers that served as a roadmap to my son’s education. Everything about the document stressed me out. I understand its importance and purpose. However, on that particular day, in that particular meeting, it felt like a reflection of my own failures. I felt solely responsible for my son’s regression. It had been a busy spring. I had taken on too many projects and thrown myself into too many other obligations. Because of this, I had less time and energy to devote to G’s needs.
Honestly, I had become so confident in his growth and newfound independence I had become slightly lackadaisical, believing that his upward trends would continue.
What I failed to remember was that having a child with a special need, no matter what degree, can often require a lot more time and energy.
G’s regression was a reality check. As our children grow, they become more independent and confident. They push us away and convince everyone they can do it on their own. Although this independence and growth is wonderful to watch, it does not mean they need any less of our attention.
Towards the end of the IEP meeting, G’s teacher reminded me the IEP is “a fluid document,” and that the objectives and goals can always be changed and refocused. I realized that just like in the document, my goals and objectives needed to be refocused… refocused on G.
As much as those meetings and that document stress me out, I value their importance. An IEP upholds accountability.
Through the measurable goals and objectives, it keeps G’s educators focused on his needs, growth, and shortfalls. Importantly, it allows me, as his mother, to continue to give him the freedom to grow at the same time as providing him with the right amount of attention he deserves.
Ultimately I want nothing more than my son to succeed, meet his goals and objectives, and be happy. My job is to help this process as much as possible.