perspective & planning
February 4, 2013 § 8 Comments
In a little over a week my husband and I will gather among teachers, therapists, administrators, and support staff for our son’s annual IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting to discuss his experiences this school year and create a new plan for the coming year. Each meeting over the past seven years has created new opportunities for our family to challenge ourselves to honor our son’s ever-changing needs, this year we are adding a new chair to our table of experts, requesting our son sit in on the process.
From the beginning I have honored our son’s unique perspective by bringing written representations of his experiences, created in his own hand, to these meetings. Drawings, lists, and letters have filled gaps in comprehension between observations. Conscious that each year our son grows more independent and that he will, one day, need to advocate as an adult for his education and eventually his career I have determined this step is essential to his journey. This decision comes one year after a difficult experience.
Last year we struggled as a team; teachers were without resources, the school was without strategy, and our son was lost to challenges that created an expectation of failure. My husband and I endeavored to create relationships with otherwise unfamiliar teachers and support staff without the reassurance of trust. No longer nestled in the familiar rhythm of our elementary school experiences we were overwhelmed. Every member of our son’s team reached for a lifeline that had to first be constructed with procedures that consumed time we didn’t have with mandatory requests, documentation, and extensive testing. Meanwhile our son showed up each day consciously drowning socially and academically in his educational experience. At the end of the struggle there was success, but the cost of lost time could not be regained.
This year I partnered more intentionally with teachers outside the neatly outlined expectations of formal documents, creating personal experiences that built confidence. We met with teachers before the school year began, exchanging introductions that allowed for questions and expectations while creating a relationship that lent itself to mutual trust; establishing an easy, fluid dialogue with teachers.
At all times our son carries with him the memory of failed experiences alongside success intimately, with a presence each of us as members of his team are second-hand witnesses to. Rather than plan around our son, I think it is time to invite him into the process.
Knowing our son is presently emotionally, intellectually, and verbally capable of expressing himself, but not yet mature enough to be in control of decisions concerning his supports I believe we are at a point where experiencing the formalities of the meeting will prepare him to engage in future meetings more confidently. This year he will make a verbal statement to personalize his experience and bring materials to take notes and record questions or concerns for a family conference after the formal meeting.
While we have always explained thoroughly each of our son’s supports, this year those decisions will be shared from the perspective of each individual team member rather than translated by us, after the fact, to the person central to our every discussion. I am eager and curious as we near the day, to see how this experience will inform our son’s understanding of his academic resources and for him to recognize the time and care invested by each individual that becomes a piece of a collective initiative.
It is a new step on a long journey and I am grateful for this opportunity to invite our son to walk beside us in preparation to move ahead more confidently into his future.