I’ve been gearing up for Ethan’s transition from early intervention services into the local school district. We’ll have a transition meeting on May 1st followed by loads of evaluations, followed by the meeting where we create Ethan’s IEP, or individual education plan for special services.
Some might think that my background in education would make me uniquely prepared for this experience, but that would be wrong. I had very little interaction with IEP’s as a teacher because most of the time I was the technology teacher who worked with the staff to meet their curricular goals using the computer lab. I didn’t have to teach content area standards or make any adjustments to my classroom to accommodate kids with IEP’s. In fact, what I find most interesting looking back on my experiences is that those kids who were “special ed” were far and away the most naturally gifted users of all the technology in my lab. I can remember 2 boys in particular who as 5th and 6th graders were reading far below grade level, yet they would unpack scanners, printers, and digital cameras and then proceed to teach the staff on their use. I saw their self-esteem soar and in the process realized why I loved being their teacher.
I changed positions from technology to language arts in the final year of my employment there. I was pregnant with Ethan and planning to take a one or two-year break, completely unaware that I was about to have a special needs child of my own. I sat in on several IEP meetings that year, even though none of the kids in my classes were identified with an IEP. I was amazed at how inefficient and poorly run these meetings seemed. I saw parents become defensive and emotional, and rightfully so. I was ashamed of the way the people in my school conducted themselves in these meetings and could not believe the lack of focus and interest in the actual student they were meant to be helping.
So now I’m preparing to go into a meeting with a room full of school staff who have never met Ethan or me and who have no earthly idea of what we’ve been through or how far we’ve come. I have the task of making sure he gets the strongest IEP goals we could possibly write and that all of his therapy needs are addressed in an appropriate way and not just framed by what the school can conjure up to offer. And then I have to take this IEP into a new school district in a new city and convince those people that it’s necessary to place him out of district in a school for the deaf where the other children sign and can communicate with him.
Whenever I imagine Ethan in a preschool class where the children speak and don’t know sign language, I think of him being unable to develop basic language skills. How will he participate in conversations? How will he be able tell his own stories? How will he enjoy reciting rhymes and songs?
Will he just look at books by himself?
No way man, not my kid.