Thursday, November 1, 2012


Sydney had her second EVER IEP meeting a couple weeks ago.  It was so fantastic that I had to share.  For those of you that might remember, the last IEP meeting was a disaster… to say the least.  I didn't write about it because I wanted to protect Sydney, and lets be honest, because at the time I was in total denial. I have decided that I will share a little bit about it with you now since Sydney is so far beyond where she was, that it’s both miraculous and hysterical. 

April 2012: So for my first IEP meeting I didn't know what to expect.  You go in thinking you are going to have a “planning meeting”.  Maybe talk about the challenges and goals for the upcoming year.  Well, yeah…no.  It was nothing like I had planned.  I think all mothers need to research this and brace themselves for that first initial meeting.  They need to be warned and told that it will be much tougher than they expect…and to bring a buddy.  If I had had a buddy, (namely my spouse), it would have been much easier, but as it was I walked in solo faced with 7 women sitting at a table with looks of worry, sadness, and purpose.  If I hadn't known any better it was as if I was walking in to be reprimanded for my job.  It was horrible. 

The meeting began with Sydney’s “autistic specialist”.  She had given Sydney the “Autistic diagnosis” not two weeks prior, which is why the meeting was called. She opened up with her observations and test results and not 5 minutes into the meeting, announced, “Your daughter scored a 30 on this test taken by her teacher, which puts her in the mentally retarded range”.  Holy Shit, are you serious?  Excuse my language, but seriously?  This same teacher, who took this test, was the one who told me every day in the parking lot that Sydney was talking more, and opening up so much more than the day before.  After an entire year, she is viewed at as mentally retarded? (Here is the part where you see the comedy…not then of course, but now).  So right off the bat, I am told that my daughter is mentally retarded and that she is autistic...again….and again.  I knew that that label had been given to her prior to the meeting, but after it had been said over and over again, and apparently it was official.  I then was told about an experience that the school had when Sydney wouldn't stop crying for about an hour one day, and was brought to the director because she was disrupting the class.  Again, seriously? Why didn't I ever hear about this?  The meeting continued for close to two hours as the therapists, teachers, and school director gave me observations, and asked questions to each other about how to handle certain situations. They ended telling me that they weren't sure how Sydney would handle a “big” school but that it was important for her to be in school every day.  This alone would worry me over the course of the next five months in determining whether or not to put her in a mainstream school in the fall. Ugh.  It was a mess all around.   

To be fair, this was a pre-pre school so they were not really equipped and experienced with special needs kids.  In fact, a couple of them said that this had been their first IEP meeting EVER.  So with that, I wish I had understood from the beginning that this had been the case and that I needed to look for a school more experience. Coulda woulda shouldas right?  I would have done things differently had I known better, but we were all learning together.  I didn’t and still now, often don't know any better. 

Anyway, I left that meeting in tears, swearing that I would NEVER go to another IEP meeting alone.  It was awful, and I left feeling like I had failed my child once again, and that there was little hope for her to be mainstreamed. 

 October 24th 2012: I requested a meeting after only 6 months because I felt that Syds goals had been met, and that she had made huge progress.  I also wanted to sit down with Sydney’s new treatment team since she was at a new school with new therapists and teachers.  I wanted to get their overall view of Syd, where they thought she was, what they thought her future could hold, and most importantly, to know if I was in denial and seeing things that just weren't there.  So here I was, walking in solo, yet again (don’t even ask), but this time there were only 4 women at the table waiting for me…and they were all smiling.  I had researched IEP’s, wrote out all of the goals that I wanted to suggest, and even gone to an IEP class at a recent resource fair that was held in town.  I was ready for whatever was going to be thrown at me, and I was ready to fight for my child to get the best possible treatment.  I was adamant about making this meeting different than the last.

They began by telling me how much they love and adored my child. Who doesn’t want to hear that?  They then went over the goals with me and told my why or why she hadn’t met them yet, but that she was close to meeting all of them. They listened to the goals that I had suggested and told me why or why they wouldn’t work.   They proceeded to give me ideas and advice as to how to help me help her reach those goals. It was fantastic…who would have thought? They are HELPING ME?  HA! Where was this 6 months ago?  I then asked them all if I was in denial about Syds Autism.  I asked if they believed she was autistic or of it was anything else (in my mind, Auditory or Language Processing Disorder).  They ALL said they did not believe it was autism but  sure enough, Language and Auditory Processing Disorder.  (My tears began to surface.) She can’t be tested yet for Auditory Processing Disorder, but she does have the tendencies as I had suspected.  They then went on to tell me, after I had asked about her future, that “she will be fine”. "SHE WILL BE FINE". (My tears began to fall.)  The therapist said, “Look, I had two nephews with auditory processing disorders way worse than Sydney that actually had to go to special schools, and are now graduated from college with honors”.   She then went on to say, “I bet in a few years she won’t even need any help...we just have to work with her and work with her…she is smart, we just have to give her the tools to help her find the words that she needs.”  Wait, hold the phone….did she just say that my kid is smart?  (The tears began to stream.) Is this the same child that we were talking about 6 months ago? The one that is “mentally retarded”?  I think I actually asked, “Are you sure?” Her teacher then handed me some papers (a test that she had given Syd) with letters and numbers on it.  “Look, these are all of the numbers and letters that she already knows. This is well beyond where many of my students are. ” She then began to tell me that Sydney is one of a few that can really write her name, and that that was rare at this age.  She also said multiple times that Sydney does really well in her class and is very comfortable in there  (I LOVE THIS TEACHER).  The case worker said, “I would be happy if that were my kid, really, if she isn't where she needs to be she is above where she needs to be”.  (Tears began to drip off of my face.) I couldn't believe any of it. I told them that we were planning on having her repeat kindergarten just to catch up with the kids, and the case worker laughed aloud and said, "but look (putting those papers in my face again), she wont need to catch up!" Wow. I couldn't believe it. I began to profusely thank each of the women there for their words of hope and validation.  I told them about my experience 6 months prior and they all felt both awful and amazed at Sydney's progress.   

For the first time ever in Sydney’s life, I truly felt real hope.  I felt that other people were finally seeing the Sydney that I see every day.  Not just her sweetness, but her potential.  I have accepted that people who know her struggles treat her differently, in fact I expect it.  It is part of the deal when you have special needs I guess.  But for the first time, I felt like these people were treating her just like everyone else.  They truly saw past her disorders and saw her for who she is and who she can be. They weren't closing any doors on her, and saying things like can't and won't. It was beautiful.  I was/am SO amazed and grateful to these women.  couldn't have asked for a better team, and more importantly, I couldn't have asked for better teachers.  Mrs Chadwick and Mrs. Karen are incredible, and exactly the people that Sydney needed to help her move forward. I am so hopeful! 

Random Syd:
Look at this FACE!  This is so her! 
 Her favorite thing to do is read books.  Its not uncommon to find her hiding in her bed, in a basket, etc with a pile of 20+ books on her lap.

1 comment:

coco said...

I am having so many emotions right now. First, sadden by the stark difference between the 2 IEPs. I'm sure the women last spring didn't intentionally mean to cause harm- but ignorance does damage.
After all your years of research, advocacy, sleepless nights and worry- you Cameron and Syd are being blessed with a great educational team who are prepared and dedicated to help Sydney.
To be honest, of all the IEPs I have been in on, I have never seen a mom come so prepared and make her own goals for her kid—and it was only your 2nd one?! Also, most IEPs are not so filled with hope, in my experience it is just about what we have to do (and how long it will take) to get the student caught up to grade level. So it is fantastic that the teachers spent a lot of the time explaining she is on level and even ahead in some areas!
I’m sure many people that know Syd (including her less experienced teachers last year) have different ideas of what she can/will become—but you know her potential and more importantly, the team primarily in charge of her educational development this year knows her potential! I pray she will always have a team who sees Syd for who she is and what she will become!
Love you- you are a fabulous mom!