Peter and I both cried at Penny’s annual meeting to discuss her IEP (Individualized Education Plan) goals.
We cried because we were so overwhelmed with pride in her and gratitude for the people who have walked with her these past few years. I choked out the words thank you to the women present, the ones who really see Penny and are for her and want her to flourish.
The meeting started with Penny’s self-evaluation of her challenges and strengths. Then I took notes on the words her teachers used to describe her:
- maturing as a learner
- really good at research
- positive attitude
We then discussed the best ways for her to receive the education she deserves and the right balance of challenge (World Literature, for instance) and support (Science Strategies rather than Biology).
In contrast to our experience, anecdotal evidence suggests most parents dread these meetings. They underscore the grief that comes alongside a society that doesn’t value our children, the fear that our kids won’t be seen in terms of their strengths and capabilities but only in terms of their deficits.
As The Lucky Few podcast puts it on their episode about this topic:
“Have you ever felt like you’re preparing for battle when you’re getting ready for an IEP meeting?”
One study of parents of students with autism stated it bluntly:
“The overwhelming majority of responses from parents indicated a sense of dissatisfaction and unhappiness with schools and school services.”
Because the people at her school believe in her, Penny is learning and growing in ways we never thought possible. Again, I cried with gratitude. But I also cried with grief. Penny’s experience is so unusual.
Penny’s meeting for her IEP was an occasion worthy of grief and gratitude. It was the meeting every kid deserves.
More with Amy Julia:
- Penny’s PATH Process: Planning for Life After High School
- Penny in Her Own Words: The PATH Process and Planning for the Future
- Essays: Missing Out on Beautiful: Growing Up With a Child With Down Syndrome
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