Diego’s IEP meeting was on June 16th, to say that I was worried about it would be an understatement. There was no option of private school if the IEP meeting was a disaster. The week prior to the meeting I went to visit the school. Lyric went there all five years of elementary and did amazing.
I have always been impressed with the school. But I needed to get a feel of it from Diego’s perspective as best as I could. The VP was the one taking me around the school. One of the things he said in passing while we were walking around stuck with me;
“We will do whatever Diego needs to be successful here.”
Did you hear angels singing when you read that??
Because when he said it, I did.
The school has added a few more things to help their students, a therapy dog in the reading room for students that are too anxious to read aloud to their peers or teachers, yoga once a week, an organic garden that the children tend to, and a fitness arcade (think of a gym with Wii, Connect, and DDR).
Needless to say I was pretty impressed.
After I visited the elementary school I was off to the middle school for Lyric’s academic fair. There I found out that Lyric’s long-term sub was actually going to be teaching at the elementary school the next year and that she would be Diego’s teacher.
I spoke with her and she was amazing, I found out that while she can teach typical classes that she has her special education credentials and that she taught a less sever day class the year prior year which was composed of 12 students, 11 with autism. She started out throwing ideas to accommodate him in a typical class and asked about his IEP meeting. When I told her that it was the following week, she said that she would arrange to be there.
Do you hear the angels singing again?? 🙂
I was very optimistic after leaving both schools that night. But I was worried about how it would all go once everyone had to put these things in a black and white legal binding document.
The day of the IEP came and I was as ready as I could be.
Diego’s Kindergarten Teacher Miss Kelly was coming with me and had prepared work samples along her own list of Diego’s areas of strength and challenges. I had all of my questions and goals written out, ten copies of Autism Life Skills by Chantal Sicile-Kira ( the most helpful book I have read to understand my baby) with a little note explaining why I was giving them the book, and a box of Uncle Biff’s Killer Cookies (I can’t bake cookies 🙂 ). Diego’s goals were very hard to write as the initial district assessment was NOT data based. One of my requests was going to be that the school re-assess him so that we had actual data to write goals from.
Kelly and I drove together and got there early. I was incredibly nervous, but ready to go. I had written everything down so that I wouldn’t forget a thing. Public speaking has never been a problem for me, but when the stakes are so high much of any skill set can disappear.
The pressure to advocate for Diego was immense.
The meeting began.
The Psychiatrist, Principal, Vice Principal, Speech Therapist, Counselor, Resource Specialist, and Head of the Charter School Special Ed Consortium were there. Once introductions were out of the way they began the meeting by asking me where Diego was now.
I cried, well not full on crying but got choked up.
I told them of the progress that Diego has made and the challenges he still faces. I told them of his wonderful personality and his bad days. After I did that I went over his areas of need and what I was concerned about in the big school. Everyone came forth with ideas and solutions, this dialogue about how to best accommodate him went on for about 30 minutes.
I was in heaven!
They LISTENED to me, and they were as concerned as I was. They understood the nights I spent lying awake at 3am worrying about how he would do at recess. While we were on the topic of Diego not knowing any of the kids at the school, the speech therapist chimed in with;
“Well we can be his friends, until he makes some here”
The ENTIRE TEAM nodded their heads in agreement. She asked that I bring him the week before school starts to meet her and his teacher echoed the same sentiment.
It was all I could do not to run over and hug her.
We discussed his current IEP and the difficulty of writing goals from the assessment. They stated (before I did) that they wanted to re-assess at the beginning of the school year and then we would have another IEP meeting for his goals. The information Kelly presented was incredibly useful and the entire team thanked her for coming.
I am so thankful for her.
Every member of the team grabbed a book and expressed how excited they were to read it. The meeting ended and we had a plan in place, a good plan.
After the meeting, the head of the Charter School Spec Ed Consortium gave me her email address,cell phone number and said to contact her any time. Then she hugged me and said that this team was amazing and that Diego would be in good hands. It turns out that her 22-year-old son has autism and just graduated from college.
She gets it.
I left there with tears of relief rolling down my cheeks.
The next day I sent an email to each person that was at the meeting to thank them and all of the responses were incredibly positive.
But there was a specific one, from the principal, that brought me to tears.
You are such an inspirational parent. You have taken such a proactive role as your child’s advocate, and have devoted your life to ensuring that Diego and your family reach their full potential. I was humbled after our meeting.
I also just want to thank each one of you that offered support and advice as I prepared for this. 🙂