It was IEP week for Team Ryan this week. And though these are emotionally draining affairs, over the years ours have tended to be quite cordial with mutually agreed upon outcomes.
The emphasis is on “ours” in that sentence, of course. We recognize this is not everyone’s experience. Maybe we are just incredibly fortunate. Our district clearly takes the needs of special education students seriously. That has been obvious to us since we first dropped Ryan off at special needs pre-K the day after his third birthday. The continuity we have enjoyed with the child study teams at now three different schools has helped to make the entire process productive.
We wonder at times if we are missing something. Are we being naïve? And then we look at our son, and the progress he has made, and we realize that no, he is getting the services he needs and he is thriving academically as a result.
Sure, there are plenty of challenges. Appropriate social interactions with his peers remain a struggle. But we’d be blind to miss that our son enjoys going to school each day. If we needed confirmation, we got it as we headed to the meeting room for his IEP talk. We happened upon Ryan in the hallways, a huge smile on his face as he shuffled between classes.
Once the meeting began, each subject teacher and his aide shared their thoughts. They described a child with a thirst for learning, motivated to achieve, interested in being a leader, understanding of appropriate classroom behavior, and desirous of social connections with the other students.
Veronica and I exchanged an occasional, “are you sure you’re talking about OUR child?” glance. But the details of their reports made it obvious they knew Ryan. They talked of how they had connected with him through his favorite topic — hockey, of course.
We left the meeting with most everything settled for his placement next year. We just want to review a few points with others that know him and have worked with him in the past. There was no objection to our doing so. No pressure to move forward with the document as outlined. We were encouraged to take our full, legally allotted time to review the plan.
When we discussed our recent decision to remove Ryan from medication, there was no rolling of eyes or objection of any kind, even though they all said they had noticed the changes in his behavior. In fact, some of the team pointed out they had noticed some positive changes.
Veronica was just about to make it out the door without crying, which would have been an IEP first for her. We thanked the teachers and aide for their work with him. We thanked them for seeing his potential and working to unlock it, for understanding the potential barriers to his success and striving to mitigate them, for creating an environment where he feels comfortable and can achieve. It was the response of one member of the team that kept Veronica’s streak intact.
“Thank you for sharing your son with us,” she said.
As I said at the beginning of this post, I know this is not everyone’s experience, not by a long shot. It’s a combination of good fortune, good communication, good teamwork, and our child’s unique place on the autism spectrum. I have read many stories of difficult or even infuriating IEP sessions and I cringe, for that has just not been our experience.
It gives us the confidence to know we are on the right path. That whatever challenges we face at home or that may come our way in the future, we have a team behind our son that is invested in his success as we are.
It’s unfortunate that this makes us feel fortunate, if you know what I mean. But today we are just incredibly grateful.