I wonder about my daughter’s road to self-advocacy. I wonder how one directs her own life, chooses and executes a career doing something meaningful and rewarding to her, how one decides how and where she will live, who she will surround herself with, and how she will spend her time – I wonder how this is done amidst alternative communication, alternative cognition and a one-of-a-kind attention span.
But I do not worry.
I hit send on an email informing the rest of her IEP team that Addie would be taking part in, and contributing to, her own IEP from here on out. She’d been present in the past, but did not actively participate. She’s in second grade now and we agreed it’s time she had a say. We weren’t certain how this would work.
Addie’s IEP team is stocked with believers, critical thinkers, measured risk-takers. We have had our moments, but I wouldn’t trade any of those in for where we are today. The IEP meeting was an amiable, productive one, with much of the collaboration among us done in the weeks beforehand. We don’t have the kind of IEPs I hear about that involve contention, bombshells, part 2, and part 3.... A lot went into (and continues to go into) arriving at this positive, very teamy approach, but it’s right where we want it, right where it does the most good for the one whose future we gather to envision and support. I am grateful for that on a daily basis.
Clearly delighted to have a room full of people that work for her (because we all work for her), Addie made the most of her position as boss. After sitting with us at the table for quite a while employing various tricks to ensure we appreciated her presence, she began to move around the room a bit. While her iPad grabbed her attention intermittently, alas her communication device did not.
Though our focus on Addie was sporadically individual and collective during the process, it appeared she had no interjections of her own on the topic of her education for the next year. Internal debate ensued in my head and heart about whether to ask a direct question of her in the hopes of an answer, or to leave it open for her and not limit what she would contribute to the parameters of my question. I willed someone else, preferably Addie herself, to be the one to bring her into the discussion - the discussion about her.
Meanwhile, our analysis and hopeful plans where made official: plans for the next steps with her communication device, strategies for extending the great literacy foundation she’s demonstrated this year, discussion of her powerful inclinations towards science and music, deliberation on how to leverage her absolute devotion to technology in a broader range of academic areas, anticipation of what third grade will hold for her – and what she holds for third grade - as she continues to access the general curriculum in the least restrictive environment for her – the regular classroom.
As business wrapped up and the tone lightened even more, all eyes settled on Addie, as she would have it. With lightening quick judgment, she recognized this as her time. She stood up and stepped backwards, positioning herself right in front of the only door in the room. No one would leave now.
A question was asked or a comment made. I don’t know what and I don’t know by whom. [I asked my husband to read through this and his only comment was that it was me who asked if she had anything to add. I have no recollection of this, so it must remain relegated to brackets.]
Her crescent eyes arch closed as the corners of her mouth pushed her cheeks up. She bent slightly and tightened her fists – this was to be a full body smile. Expertly executing dramatic pause, she held us at bay a few moments longer.
When she was ready to pull the trigger, her right hand shot up to her forehead, pointer resting briefly above the temple before flinging out and forward. It was accompanied by a barely perceptible tip of her head in the same direction. Full body smile unaffected by this concise monologue.
In delighted unison, her IEP team interpreted her American Sign Language; together we gave voice to her declaration. In this statement, she both summarized the entire IEP meeting and threw down the gauntlet for the coming year.
And so I wonder...
But I don’t worry.