Thursday, April 30, 2009

I.E.P. spells anxiety

The schedule for my boys I.E.P (individual education plan) meetings came in the mail a month ago, and I still haven't signed and sent them back. It's not intentional, this procrastination-really, I don't do it on purpose. It's just that schools make me anxious. I don't fully understand it myself. It is as if the minute I walk into a school building-poof! I'm an awkward sixteen year old. I think that part of this anxiety stems back to adolescence. As a kid, I wasn't what you ever would have called an "ideal student". I spent an awful lot of time in offices....the principals, the dean of students, the dean of studies, the headmasters..(and it wasn't to discuss literature.) It's not that I was a bad kid...I was just a little "high spirited"...perhaps... a bit more. (but hey, who here is going to argue? It's my story and I'm sticking to it.) I don't have trouble behaving as an adult in day to day life. I am responsible, a good parent-I pay my bills. It is just that I never think of myself as one, and it astounds me, when other people do. When we first started to deal with school and my sons needs, I had a positive attitude. I wanted the best for my boy, and I was eager to get together with a team of "experts" to start planning his education.I put all worry aside. Anxious? Not me! I would be an adult, both in words and in actions.

Our very first I.E.P. meeting was seven years ago. My son at the time was three years old, and in the process of being diagnosed. We were having a meeting with our case worker, the special ed nursery school teacher, the occupational therapist and the speech therapist. I was excited to get help for our boy. I looked forward to finally getting some answers and advice. This was my first real foray into the world as a mother, and I so very much wanted to make a good impression. Before the meeting started, our case worker took us aside and said "I have to warn you...the speech therapist stutters." I thought "Why is she telling me this... does she think I'll say something?" We sat down and began making introductions. Everything was fine-until the speech therapist spoke. It all went downhill from there.

Saying that he simply had a stutter was an understatement.. Every single word was broken down letter by letter, or they were clumped up and spit out all at once. "He he he he he he ll ll ll ll ll o o o o o o o"...he said, "I wwwwwwiiilllllbeteachingyoursonspeech... I quickly looked around the table- No one was reacting.- Didn't anyone notice? He went on.."I I I I jjjjjustwwwwwwawa wawawawantedtotellyouhowhahahahppyIamtobeworkingwithyoursosososon" Did anyone else see this? This can't be real. THIS was the person who was going to model speech to my non verbal son??? Am I the only one who sees this? This was my expert? I was stupefied, incredulous...I started to panic ... and then(sigh), the inevitable happened.... I started to laugh, I had to...it was if I were possessed. I didn't want to -really, I didn't. I tried stopping it...I must NOT lose control! But, the more he spoke, the more I sweat. My upper lip was moist, my armpits drenched..I was shaking. At this point- everyone is looking at me-as if something were wrong...WITH ME! Every time he would start to speak, I would giggle..in tandem. He would say "K K K a a aaa-and I would be breathing/giggling H H H a a aaa- simultaneously.. I was rigid yet quivering at the same time.. "Whats the matter, are you o.k.? someone asked. "No, I'm just not feeling very wehehehehell." It was horrible. I was so flustered...I was losing control . I started finishing his sentences for him...I COULDN"T let him speak. I was desperate to make it stop! Finally! After what felt like an eternity-the meeting ended. I was a wrung out wreck....exhausted and so ashamed. I would NEVER make fun of someones disability. It was the situation that got to me. I had gone into that meeting with such hope. We did not know what was going on with our boy. I had expected answers-help. I definitely had not been expecting what they offered.

It has been seven years and many I.E.P. meetings since that awful day. I have learned so much in that time. Both about myself and my kids. I am my children's best expert. I am no longer afraid to ask,and sometimes even to demand, the services that they need. I am however, still anxious when it comes to school offices. But I am working on it. I will mail the I.E.P. forms out today....if I remember to. Sometimes it's tough being a "high spirited"..... adult.

10 comments:

Maddy said...

Well in my, ever so humble opinion, a sense of humour is the most valuable asset that any parent can aspire to, and you.......have in dollops.
Cheers

kathleen Leopold said...

Thanks Maddy-I was afraid that people might read this the wrong way...what an awful day that was-hindsite always makes things funnier...

KWombles said...

Oh, thank you for the laugh! It's been fifteen years since I had my first IEP meeting (they call them ARDs here in Texas, and it always confuses the hell out of me). I'm still chuckling at the thought of your first one as I type this. I laugh (inappropriately?), too, when a situation is just so frakking absurd that it's laugh, cry, or otherwise lose it. I can't help it; I dissolve into gigle fits at times that leave me rolling on the floor. So many places I just can't take me, because I'll snort if I here something I consider woo or otherwise ridiculous.

IEP meetings, especially when they're not to just confirm everything is going as planned, are nerve-wracking. That whole, what are they going to say, what will I have to face. Our oldest, well, those IEPs got so difficult and his educational experience so unproductive, I just brought him home and taught him myself. I have no intention of doing that with the girls, though. They are high functioning and need that neurotypical modeling, so I'll stumble through the ARDs, which sounds the way I think of them: add a long sigh through saying ard and isn't that just perfect to represent the dread of the meeting?

kathleen Leopold said...

ARD...yup that sums it up...I hate those meetings-I always come off looking like a loon. I think it has something to do with the extra "irreverance" gene that I seem to have gotten...it has caused my downfall on many occasion! (:

denise said...

A speach therapist with a severe stutter? This reminds me of the eight different aides J had when she was in her intensive "early intervension" at home ABA program. They were all soon to be psychiatry interns or psychology majors.Every single one of them, when I'd ask why they decided to study mental disorders would tell me something along the lines of, "Well, I've always felt that I was really screwed up somehow.I wanted to figure out what was wrong with me, and learn how to help others." hehe.This has really reinforced my lifelong stance of 'I will NEVER see a psychiatrist or a therapist' :)


I wonder if there are any P.E. teachers out there who were born w/o arms?

denise said...

speech.

See, I do know how to spell it. Haven't had any coffee yet...

Nostrum said...

I hear you. I'm supposed to be the big grownup who makes all these important decisions, and really I'm the big grownup with a probable case of ADHD who is sitting there struggling hard to pay attention or at least look like she's paying attention, and what is that thing on the resource teacher's upper lip?

Yeah.

kathleen Leopold said...

@denise...I didn't notice the misspell!! isn't that just insane-a speech therapist with a severe impediment! I understand his passion-but come on already!

@nostrum-I know what you mean...I am forever distracted by the inappropriate....or shiny!

Mrs. C said...

Nuts! That's like having a pregnant three-foot-tall firefighter rescuing you from a burning building!

Ok, the consequences wouldn't be quite so severe, but ??? was the school thinking to hire her?

kathleen Leopold said...

Mrs. C-Hahaha I know...what WERE they thinking? I just felt so horrible for laughing!