I had it all planned out that today I would write about my son's IEP meeting yesterday ... except it snowed, and the meeting got rescheduled for tomorrow, and now here I sit without a topic. This will be my next to last IEP meeting, close to the end of 15+ years of advocating for my daughter and son. Of all the bittersweet transitions that come with your last child graduating high school, IEP meetings are one thing I will. not. miss. I'm relieved that my son looks ready now to continue on to college rather than remain at the high-school for all his extra IDEA-promised years, because friends, I need to get off the IEP train. I'm done. I'm fried.
I haven't even really had a terrible time of IEPs. There was one very unpleasant meeting when I wanted to push my daughter from self-contained into inclusion, and the team yelled and I cried and though I finally got my way things were never cordial again with that group. There were a few meetings where a case manager made it really clear that I needed to be "handled," and I "handled" her right back. There have been years when I've gotten along great with the team and sort of took over, which is certainly better than being steamrolled, but short of the sort of professional "Let's all bring our best resources to the table and share all our good ideas" that's ideal but elusive.
In high school, the meetings have been generally agreeable but super-quick; the case manager holds them in her smallish office, with people popping in and leaving and the clock ticking throughout. I've taken to talking with anyone I want to hear from and strategize with in advance so I can present a consensus without having to actually discuss things onsite. It works, but it's work.
Even the best meetings are stressful, yet it's the stress that leads up to them that really gets me. Will something unpleasant get dropped on the table? Are they plotting some big change? Is there something somebody's not telling me? Has there been a policy shift that will affect my child? Are the good grades my child has been getting just a polite smokescreen hiding lack of progress? I interpret every letter, every phone call, every e-mail, every nuance of speech with school personnel; I have angry impassioned conversations in my head about issues that never, never come up in real life. My blood pressure is skyrocketing before I even set foot in an office, and even if the meeting is anticlimactic, I'm exhausted.
I don't know if parents of typical kids can ever understand what it's like to maneuver a kid through a successful program of special education. For most parents, getting your kid through school is like rolling a marble from one end of a room to another -- you can put some spin on it, it can get there faster or slower, it might hit an uneven patch of floor and veer a little off course, but basically, once you start it rolling, it's a straight shot to its destination. Getting a kid with special needs through school is like manipulating a marble through one of those mazes where you have to keep tilting the surface one way or another, madly turning the knobs, steering away from holes, backtracking from dead-ends, never able to rest lest your marble roll back to the starting point. I'm getting near the end of that maze, my wrists are shot, my eyes are crossed, I'm seeing holes everywhere, just gotta get that marble ... a ... little ... further. So close.