Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The secret language of parents: IEPs and 504s

Have you met my boy Max?

He's as brilliant as those enormous blue eyes of his.

Although, at times, you wonder if he is ever going to stop being such a goofball.

No, really. He's amazing. Even when he is being goofy.

He can create anything with his hands.

He is polite. Chivalrous to the point that you think it's a joke.
But he's completely sincere.

He is kind and gentle, and excellent with babies.

He loves, and is loved.

And he especially loves school.

Which is great. I never thought it would be that way. From the time that he was very small, I could tell his brain worked differently. He was so easily frustrated. So impatient with himself and with others. So oblivious of consequence. Of cause and effect. He would talk endlessly, but I could not understand a thing he was saying. Not because his words were garbled, but because they were apropos of nothing. Conversations began mid-stream, without context. He was slow to read. Slow to write. His handwriting illegible, his spelling atrocious. School has always, always been hard for him. But we found the perfect school for a kid like Max, and everything has been manageable with just a few emails back and forth between teachers, some minor adjustments, and a lot of patience and understanding.

When he needs to stand up and walk around, he can.
If he needs to excuse himself because someone or something is just making him nuts, he can do that too.
The times when he gets emotional, terribly sad or bitterly angry, have gotten fewer and further between.
And they don't give standardized tests, so he has had a reprieve from hours of bubble-filling.

But this reverie had to come to an end sometime. After all, the whole world relies on bubbles that need filling. And you don't always get to stand up and walk away when someone is distracting you. I get it. There is a great big planet out there, and it's going to be sink or swim time eventually.

Now that he is older, we have to start thinking about high school. Max is going to attend a public high school, and because of this, we are switching him to a public school for his last year of middle school, hoping to ease the transition. He already has some friends there, and he is really excited to make the switch. However, he has absolutely no idea what to expect.

I, on the other hand, have a pretty good idea. I think that, overall, the change is going to be a positive one. And I truly believe it is better to make the move now when he will be the oldest kid in the school, rather than high school, when he will be one of the youngest. But I also need to make sure that he doesn't get lost in the crowd.

Literally. These are pretty big schools we are talking about.

I was told by his doctor that we can set up a 504 plan, and then if we need to, we can request an IEP.
I didn't know what that meant. So I looked it up. And while it hurt my heart to read the descriptions, and apply them to my child, my beautiful boy, I also understood, fully and completely, that it was the right thing to do. It was going to make this entire public school experience a lot more manageable.

So I went right ahead and started pulling together all of the paperwork I will need to request an IEP.

We have the diagnosis from a doctor.
We have assessments from specialists.
We have a letter from his current teacher.
We have samples of his work.

And now we begin the slow and meticulous and red-tape laden process.

I never, ever thought I would have a child that needed special accommodations. School has never been hard for me. What has been hard, has been adjusting my expectations to meet the parameters set by Max. I've made huge strides in this department. I no longer feel sick to my stomach when I see his writing filled with mis-spellings and grammatical inaccuracies. I no longer get frustrated when it takes hours for him to complete a work sheet because he is playing with his pencil or staring out the window. I no longer feel disappointed when he doesn't get 100% on his spelling tests.

But I expect him to get 100% out of his education.
And so, we are requesting an IEP.

Because Max. My sweet boy. He is special in the best possible way.

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