The title is lying: it wasn’t my last IEP. It wasn’t even my last IEP meeting. But it was the last IEP meeting for this kid, at this school.
For those of you who aren’t schooled in the alphabet soup of special ed, an IEP is an Individualized Education Program – a document that public school kids with special educational needs are eligible for. It’s a document that lists their accommodations and that ensures their legal rights for modifications in school.
IEPs are fraught. Parents are often upset that the schools aren’t doing more, or aren’t upholding the IEP. Meetings can be emotional or contentious. Some parents are in denial; others advocate too hard or unrealistically. Having a kid who doesn’t fit the mold carries its own stigma and grief.
This week I went to the very last IEP meeting of my high school senior. ADHD has made his scholastic journey complex and bumpy. We’ve been through many schools and many iterations of school: part day school, part homeschooling through charter school; full day school; alternative vocational Jewish high school; and finally, now, public school.
As certain social goals were removed from the IEP, my emotions soared: after 14 years of wondering and worrying, we’ve crossed the finish line. We are there! Goals: met. As other goals remained on the document, my mind strayed to college, where he will have to advocate for his own IEP. How will that look? How will it go? I won’t be at the IEP meeting anymore, because it won’t be modified anymore. This document is it. The last stop on the train. The end of the dream, when you wake up.
As I exited the meeting I felt surreal. I was reminded of a verse from Psalms: “This is the day the Lord has made, we shall be happy and rejoice on it.” As I trudged to so many meetings, so many doctors, so many therapists and tutors and advisors, I never really thought the day would come when there would be an end of sorts. This nondescript cloudy day in October was that day. Sometimes the day that symbolizes the end of an era is not circled in red on your calendar. Sometimes you don’t wake up and know it’s The Day. But it’s the day G-d has made for you – and it’s your job to find the joy.
We have another child on an IEP, and there are many miles to go before we sleep. Having a large family means you don’t get a lot of sleep. It also means that it’s never really the end of an era, because there’s always something interesting popping up (and by “interesting,” you know what I mean).
There are what I call “PITS” days (Punch In The Stomach) where you get disheartening news and you just have to deal. There are amazing milestone days. And then there are days like last Monday, where I didn’t even know it was going to be the end of an era, until it was.
And whatever day it is – try to find the joy. Because there is no other way.