This was me. Going to my first IEP. I was curious, hopeful, nervous.
First, introductions were made. Then, presentation of reports. I was very impressed with how in-depth the speech and language specialist’s and school psychologist’s reports were. I was probably thinking something like. Wow, they did a lot of tests . . . hey, that test has the word Hawaii in it . . . too bad we couldn’t have done the test in Hawaii. . . .
Sounds like I knew what I was doing, huh? In reality, I didn’t even know what “IEP” meant. I didn’t know about procedural safeguards or timelines, either. I only knew that everybody at the table was there to talk about my son.
See, a few months before that meeting, at my son’s three-year well-child visit, my pediatrician asked me about his speech. I said I could understand a little bit, but that strangers understood none. He said that sounded below developmentally appropriate. I asked him if he should refer me to a speech pathologist; he recommended I call my school district first. So I did.
I spoke with an admin, and she took my name and number and said someone would call me back. I got a call back, some meetings were scheduled, observations were made, and questions were asked to which I responded in the manner of “sometimes,” “always,” and “never.” At no time did I understand or realize that this process was an initial assessment for special education.
About a month and a half later, I got the phone call saying, “We’d like to talk.” I came in for this meeting totally fearful, worried, excited, not knowing exactly where this was going. I just wanted them to say he could have some speech help.
They offered to enroll him in SDC preschool to include 30 minutes a week with the speech pathologist. While I had no idea what “SDC” meant, I did comprehend the term “preschool.” And seeing as I was on waiting lists for two different preschools, neither of which accepted children who were not yet potty trained, and these people were now saying this preschool was free and that they would help with potty training, I thought, Score! Where do I sign?
So began my experience as a special ed parent. My daughter later qualified for the same program. I’ve since attended many IEP meetings—some more heated than others—as my children, my expectations, and my understanding of special education developed. I’d already attended ten IEPs and several parent support workshops before I ever pursued a job in the field.
Indeed, by the time I conducted my first IEP meeting as a representative of the school district, I didn’t quite feel the butterflies you’d expect of a newly minted special ed teacher (so aptly described by my fellow blogger Theresa). My sentiment was more along the lines of I wonder if this will feel . . . different.
That particular meeting was memorable for reasons I can’t disclose, and I’ve held many meetings since—again, some good, some not as good. No matter what kind of meeting I prepare for, though, I remind myself that I am about to talk to someone’s parents. They’re meeting with me with the hope that my school district can help their child. Even if we’re coming at this goal from different perspectives, it is still the same goal: to help a child. Which makes us . . . not so different.