My daughter's IEP meeting was last week. She's a sophomore in high school. That makes it our thirteenth annual meeting. I can't count the number of extra meetings we've had over the years. Many. And I attend IEP meetings for a living. Nothing about the process surprises me. If I've done my prep job well, nothing about the meeting surprises me. Still, I hate it. The teachers are positive. The case manager is positive. The therapists are positive. Everyone is smiling about her progress. Still, I hate it.
Everyone is stil smiling as they tell me about the meltdowns. The social worker has asked the teachers to document the meltdowns. What time of day are they (always during the last twenty minutes of class)? How severe are they (pretty severe)? How long did it take her to recover (between fifteen and thirty minutes)? Does she leave the room or does she (I'm adding this part) disrupt class for all of the other students (she usually goes to the nurses's office with her para)? Are the meltdowns decreasing (no) or increasing (yes) in frequency as the year progresses?
Everyone is very positive. Oddly enough, she has not missed any new material during her numerous visits to the nurse's office. She recovers well enough to continue with her day, usually with no recurrence. However, when I extend my plea to fade the full-time para support, the smiles fade.
They knew I was going to ask about that. They knew because I told them in advance that I wanted a fade plan. When I told the social work intern is when I heard about the data collection. Many times a year I explain to parents who suspect their school has "an agenda" that data collection is not the foundation for a conspiracy. Data collection is best practice. How can teachers and service providers know what prompts a behavior and what strategies work to defuse it without data? But there I was, telling the intern that I sensed the school had "an agenda" in collecting this data. Do they want to keep the para glued to my daughter (at least in the documentation) because she is helpful to other members of the class? Do they want to prove to me that my daughter is nowhere near ready to develop her own coping strategies? Do they just want to disempower me? I doubt that last one, but it sure feels possible right now.
I listen to the data, but I am no longer smiling. At least I knew it was coming, so I am prepared. We do hammer out a fade plan with lots of caveats about implementing it very gradually. The plan will be ready next week. Of course that means we will see no plan until I push for follow-up. We discuss goals for writing and reading comprehension, discuss my daughter's lack of friendships, discuss her willingness to contribute facts to class discussion (almost always on topic now!) but generally not engage in analysis, discuss her problem remembering to raise her hand. The case manager adds up the minutes of services and we are done.
Three hours have passed. We all smile and talk, once again, about what a delight my daughter is. They move onto their next meeting. I drive my husband to his office. All we can say to each other is that we're exhausted. We've stopped smiling. We're tired. We enjoy our daughter tremendously on a daily basis, but at our annual examination of the year-ahead-in-review. . . . Channeling Paul Simon here, Still painful after all these years.