I’ve known it was coming for awhile now.The dreaded IEP meeting.
If you aren’t familiar with the abbreviation that strikes fear in the hearts of moms like me everywhere, it stands for Individualized Education Program. It’s the game plan for educating a child who doesn’t fit the norm.
Nathan will age out of Early Intervention next week when he turns three and will simultaneously age in to the public preschool program for kids with developmental delays. We spent the past two months going to various meetings and assessments (and completing some questionnaires at home) to determine whether he qualified.
I wanted him to do well on his assessments. I wanted him to prove that he is capable of so much more than what the world assumes he can do. But on the other hand, I know he’s delayed, and I didn’t want him to do so well that he wouldn’t qualify.
It’s a tough position to be in.
I went to most (all?) of Sarah Kate’s IEP meetings alone, and since she was transitioned out of an IEP to a 504 plan, I’ve gone to those meetings alone, as well. Her delays were obvious, so I mostly knew what to expect each time. Knowing what to expect didn’t make it easy – it’s tough to see your child’s weaknesses quantified in black and white – but it did remove some of the fear.
Not so with Nathan.
While Sarah Kate’s motor delays at age three were significant, her social skills, speech and cognition were advanced, and her adaptive skills were delayed in ways that were heavily dependent on (or at least related to) her poor balance that caused her motor delays. By contrast, Nathan doesn’t have One Big Problem; his whole being is just…different.
With Sarah Kate, there was a certain sense of feeling like it was just a matter of time and hard work before she’d begin to catch up. With Nathan, I have to admit to being more of a defeatist, because every area of development is affected in some way. But oddly, those delays don’t smack me across the face every day like Sarah Kate’s One Big Problem did. Maybe that’s because I’m not around as many kids his age as I was when Sarah Kate was little, I’m not sure.
The thing is, I just didn’t want to see those numbers laid out in front of me.
It was a little stupid to go ahead with the IEP meeting on Thursday morning at 9:30. Nathan was sick, I was tired, and Mr. Andi had to get up and drive 175 miles home from a conference that morning in order to make it on time. But I’d dreaded this meeting for months and I wanted to get it over with, so we pressed on.
Although Sarah Kate wasn’t in the preschool program in this school system, the preschool is located at her former elementary school and I sorta-kinda knew the preschool teacher, Mrs. L, from the carline. She first explained the minimum eligibility qualifications (a delay two standard deviations from the mean in one area or 1.5 standard deviations from the mean in two or more areas), which was probably good information for Mr. Andi but was old news to me. Now that we were there, I just wanted to cut to the chase.
He qualified, which we already knew.
How? In communication, adaptive skills, and cognition. No real surprises, I don’t guess. We know his speech – especially his articulation – isn’t good. His adaptive skills I’ll take some of the blame for, as I neglect working on things like eating, dressing, etc., because I’m lazy, hate messes, and am sorta-kinda obsessed with the speech. Cognition? Well, that one was tricky, because I really didn’t know what to expect.
On the one hand, I know he’s no dummy. He’s clever. And sneaky. And he somehow learned all of the letters of the alphabet without us teaching them to him (I credit the LeapFrog Leaptop and Sesame Street). In fact, when reviewing the draft of the IEP, the two changes we made were to replace two of the listed goals on letters, because he’s already doing those things.
But he does have Down syndrome.
So of course we should expect him to have a cognitive delay. But there’s a nagging little voice in my head that keeps saying…
…BUT he has mosaic Down syndrome, which means that on average, that extra chromosome doesn’t have as strong of an impact.
…BUT what if the genes that combined to make Sarah Kate score as “gifted” are strong enough to balance out the negative impact of that extra chromosome, making him cognitively “average”?
…AND how accurate can a cognitive test be, anyway, for a kid with communication difficulties?
I wish I could tell you that there’s some greater life lesson to be learned from the IEP meeting, or that I could at least walk you through what to expect, how to prepare, and the like. But the truth is that our experience was uneventful and not unpleasant.