Experiencing the IEP

I can’t believe how the time is flying and how many things I haven’t had time to sit down and record, you know, for all the great grand children I will someday have who will probably never read a word of this because the internet will have exploded by then.

Tomorrow is Rex’s IEP (Individual Education Plan) meeting. I have come to realize that the professionals involved in these “Let’s Talk About What’s Wrong With Your Kid” meetings are regularly clueless about how it feels to be on the other side of the table. A good friend of mine who is an elementary school teacher has recently been dealing with her own daughter’s IEP negotiations. We’ve talked a lot about the process and how very different the position of the parent is from that of the professional. In her meetings they expect her to be both. It’s impossible.

Anyone who has ever had a child that struggled–socially, academically, physically–knows that when you sit down to discuss your little person all professionalism and level headedness fly out the window. Those meetings are brutal on a mother’s heart. There is nothing clinical about it, but so often the professionals on the other side of the table treat it like a medical procedure, ripping off bandaids with nothing more than a “this might feel a little uncomfortable” before they give you a parenting enema.

My girlfriend worked for years as a special education specialist before having her own children and is amazed at how much her world changed when she had to sit on the other side of the IEP. Nothing can prepare you and no amount of experience with other people’s children, no matter how much you might care about or even love them, compares to the feelings you have when your own child is on the discussion block.

If only the people in those meetings realized that some little comment about your kid’s recess habit, or snotty nose problems, or inability to pay attention during PE–that kind of comment can bleed a parent. I’ve had it happen and I’ve seen it happen. Casual remarks that cut you because…because you are a part of your child. Every struggle, every success, every discomfort and every moment of hard won ground they experience is part of you. What they feel, you feel times ten.

It’s not about the legalities or thoroughalities or factualities. It is, those things are really important, but for mother’s it is a matter of heart. Every time we have to review our child and their scores? The factual data they feed us undergoes a chemical reaction in our soul and what comes out of our mouth is always going to sound like the throaty growl of a mother bear.

Tomorrow is Rex’s IEP meeting. He has made incredible strides this year in every single aspect both socially and educationally and is working with a brilliant team of professionals. But just thinking about the meeting tomorrow triggers a physical reaction that really makes me want to go put a pillow over my face and go back to bed. I think it’s why I’m still in my bathrobe at 11:30 this morning.

Can I make it through without feeling the hot prickles at the back of my eyelids? Probably not. Every time we sit and discuss our boy with his teachers and counselors and therapists I feel so vulnerable.

I want them to see his brilliance, head down to his laboratory and take a look at his inventions. I find them all over the house every single day. Boats and flying things and tracks for marbles and hang gliders for Rubber Ducky. His genius doesn’t come out at school, kids aren’t usually handed a roll of duct tape and a box of recyclable materials and encouraged to have at it.

But if you go down to Rex’s laboratory you will find piles of plastic cups and styrofoam and straws and cardboard–all picked out of my many trash receptacles. Pop cans and milk boxes and holy moly tape! The kid loves tape. When he gets upset after school all I have to do is hand him a paper plate and tell him to go “make something.” He flies down the stairs and when he emerges with his prize he’s happy and beaming and ready to tackle his homework.

Being a parent is the hardest, greatest, most divine thing that has ever happened to me. Being a parent of Rex has stretched my heart out in the best sort of way. I would wish this on anyone.

Here’s a great example of Rex’s brilliance.




  1. I totally get the anxiety we as parents go through in dealing with IEP meetings. Discussing our special kids with those that think they”know” them is truly a challenge at times.

  2. I get this. There is something about seeing all those scores in black and white that Kills you a little. And my daughter is doing very well. But I’ve been on both sides too And it isn’t the same at all.

  3. My heart hurt just reading this, I hate going to those meetings because I wish so badly I could make them see the child that I see. The sweet smart loving boy who is trying so hard. I hate going and I always dread them. Good luck!!

  4. You have an amazing child! I see a very smart and creative child that hasn’t let anything destroy his desire to build and create. From one mother to another, I also am so happy for him that you see what a blessing he is in your life and let him shine.

  5. I’ve been fortunate that my 2 children with delays have had a teacher with a severely disabled child. She gets it, and I love her for that. Unfortunately, this year we got switched to a different teacher. And now I totally get your desire to go back to bed. I miss the teacher who A. knew what it was like on my side of the table and B. knew my son and his sister before him and therefore knew how far we had come. Ugh. We just want the world to see the brilliance in our children, is that too much to ask? 😉

  6. “Being a parent is the hardest, greatest, most divine thing that has ever happened to me.” Totally agree. We are so invested in our children, so emotionally attached and so deeply tied that every comment leaves an impression. I’m dealing with a 16YO who’s BFF occasionally says unkind things to her (mostly via text) without realizing the effect it’s having. And it’s killing me.

  7. I ache for all of you in remembrance of our own iep days. One of these days you’ll be looking at it from a distance & it’ll still hurt but you’ll realize you all made it through. *hugs*

  8. I know exactly what you mean. Even though we have a wonderful teacher this year who is friendly and sweet and so kind, I still get the lump in my throat, just as I have since the first parent-teacher meeting I had with his preschool, and it’s funny, even when he’s doing well in school, I still get flooded with emotion over his successes just as much as I am emotional about his struggles. That mama bear voice, yeah, for me it is talking really deep so that lump in my throat doesn’t come rolling out and start the waterworks.