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His Last IEP!

Wow! Just saying that is huge. I’m not even sure of what I am feeling right now. It’s so many emotions all at the same time. There is joy that it is finally over. I no longer have to have those knots in my stomach when I need to confront a situation or advocate for change. I no longer need to prepare a powerpoint - yes, I have done that - to demonstrate how my son learns. I no longer need to buy donuts and juice so that people are happy when they are making decisions about my child. I no longer need to feel like I am going into the ring to fight. In the best of times, I leave triumphant, but with an overwhelming flood of emotions. My ritual is to gear up, prepare, present, then cry like a baby when I get home. 

I think the crying was just a release. I recall a time when we were opting out of state testing because my son was experiencing extreme meltdowns and aggression. There were many changes that had happened - a move to a new house, change in teacher, and body changes brought on by puberty. I had to meet with the administrators and directors just to say, "No, we are not doing this right now". Through that, I met wonderful people who were supportive and understanding and even made accommodations about the format of the test. There was a time when my husband went to the IEP during a very tumultuous time at school and he cried. Tears and all - he said, “My wife is asking for help and you are not helping us. Everyone is sitting here straight-faced and telling us all these negative things about our son, but no one is willing to help or come up with solutions". That was the last IEP he attended. It was on me moving forward.

So now, here we are - his very last IEP. Again, I don’t know how I feel. Part of me is relieved. Part of me wants to cry. Part of me is deeply introspective. I am thinking about my journey - actually HIS journey. As much as this has been difficult for me, I am sure it has been equally, if not more difficult for him. School has not been the warm and fuzzy place for him. Removing him from public school and homeschooling him has been the best decision for us. It allowed us to tailor his learning to his interests and to his learning styles. It removed the extra ‘noise’ of people not understanding or underestimating his genius. I removed him from an environment where his sensory overload and emotional dysregulation was seen as aggressive and even categorized as ‘assault.’ Honestly, I was fearful that the police might get involved and my son would be hurt or worse, killed. Sure, it sounds extreme, but I am the mother of a beautiful black boy who may appear to some as a threat. It was enough to deal with the stressors of the IEP process. Feeling that I was placing my son in harm’s way was way more than I could juggle along with everything else.

To be clear, I am only speaking of our experiences as a family. This has worked for us. Your child may have a wonderful experience in their current school placement - whatever that is. The most important thing is to listen to your child, listen to your heart, and make the best decision for your family. There is no right or wrong way - just YOUR way. You will know what works and what doesn’t. Trust your instincts - trust your child. The journey of formal education has a huge impact. Create the most comfortable environment for learning that works for your child. When they are happy, we are happy.

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