IEP For Dummies

Today was the Doodle's first IEP. For those of you not down with the special needs jargon, it stands for Individualized Education Plan. From everything I've read and everything I've been told it's a pretty big and stressful deal. School officials, teachers, a psychologist, nurse, speech therapist, Regional Center representative--they were all there. And then there was just ME. I kind of felt like I was at a deposition and that I should have brought some representation. I also couldn't help but think that the psychologist, who wouldn't stop taking notes, was hard at work analyzing me and my every (paranoid) move. I did my best not to fidget while sitting at the children's table on a tiny little chair that barely held my giant ass. I wondered if there was a psychological reason behind having us sit at a kids table.

First they gave me an official booklet of my parental rights, apparently I get a lot more of those since I have a child with "special needs". I'm just happy he's getting anything at all. I know I need to look out for his best interests throughout his life but I'm just so very grateful the Doodle is getting any services and special education at all from a public school system. I can't imagine fighting this battle without a professional support system or guidance from people who do this for a living.

So the IEP meeting drug on a bit, I can't believe it needed to take that long for his 3 hour per day educational plan, maybe I should have boned up more on the IEP Process but I think we could have handled it over the phone. The person conducting the meeting kept asking me if I was OK so far, and was she on the right path? As if I was about to storm out of the meeting and object. There was a lot of repeating of information and by the end of the meeting, my brain was mush. I've decided IEP really stands for "Intelligence Extraction Procedure" because I felt a little drained of my faculties.

Due to either progress or boredom, I will say, this is the first meeting I've been to where I haven't cried when talking about the Doodle and his condition(s). I kept thinking of the essay about Holland and how I was supposed to be in Italy right now. It is especially hard to sit back and listen to other people, people who have never even met this special boy yet, talk about him so clinically and matter-of-factly. It's not always so black and white with the Doodle and what is true one day for him could be completely different the next. I wanted to stand up and scream, this is my baby! He's a person not a diagnosis! But, I just smiled politely and then cried in my car on my way to Baskin Robbins for a much needed chocolate malt with vanilla ice cream.


  1. Hello Angela,

    Your mother asked me come online and take a look at your site. I am so sorry that you are having such a difficult time right now. I wish I had some magical words or advice that would cure everything for you, but we both know that can't happen. What I can tell you is that I have attended many IEP meetings for many of the children that I work with, and I may have some helpful advice in that area. First, you should know that you are entitled to have a Parent Advocate assigned to you. This is a person whose job it is to attend meetings with you, and "advocate" for your needs and wishes. I also feel your pain when you talked about how long those meetings are. It is as if everyone wants to put their opinions and expertise out there to make themselves seem important. That is extremely annoying! You also have the right to start or end the meeting whenever you decide. Trust me, from the other side; those people are more intimidated by you than you think. The parents of "special needs" kiddos have a lot of power in education! An IEP is treated as a legal document in the school system, and districts live in constant fear of law suits. One thing you should also be aware of as he moves through the school system, is that no school employee will ever tell you what you sometimes need to hear. That is, teachers nor social workers, nor school psychologists will ever suggest treatments, testing, or therapy; even if that is what they believe should happen. Suggesting those things to you would require the district to pay for those services, and believe me, they do not want to do that. What I mean to say is, do not rely on anyone in the educational system to give you advice on any matters other than his education.

    I know that you are having such a hard time. All I can say is that it seems you are doing everything you can. You are taking him to all the professionals you can think of, and trying to cope the best you can. You really should take a longer vacation! Maybe just you and Jim, and leave the kids with your mom and Jerry - or hire someone to come in and help for a few days. It really seems like you are in desperate need of some time away – not just a short trip to Lake Sonoma with Jimmy.

    We will be visiting California this month. I hope we will get a chance to see you, Jim and kids while we are there. Best of luck!



  2. Thanks Anne. It's very new to me still and I'm still trying to figure this IEP thing out. I left the meeting without signing anything, I told them I wanted to think about it before I decided. I did make some demands about having a one-on-one assistant for him while in school, an aid to ride the bus, extra in home assistance and also some OT. He will be getting speech at school, but I want to add more speech too. I feel like the epilepsy factor has now changed everything for him. His cognitive learning has regressed. He can't focus. When he can't focus, he can't learn. It's a vicious circle. The medicines are not helping, they have terrible side effects. So right now, I'm just taking it day by day.

    Thank you for your kind words. I hope to see you when you come out.