I’m not a big fan of meetings. Meetings typically aren’t called to discuss something fun; if that was the case, it would be called a “party” or “celebration”. On the contrary, “meetings” are usually very serious times to discuss an important matter. And I don’t enjoy them, not one bit.
Since Alex started school, we have sat through endless meetings. We have also sat through meetings to learn how to handle other meetings. It’s exhausting. Some meetings are stressful, others are aggravating, and still others leave me in a state of pure shock and/or confusion that it takes me hours (if not days) to sort it all out and revise the game plan.
Any parent of a child on an IEP knows that you don’t just get to send your kid to school. Nope. Oh, but wouldn’t that just be lovely? To send your child off, happy and smiling, and know with some certainty that everything they need is being taken care of, without having to look over every shoulder and constantly be viewed as “that parent”? These are the things I dream of, usually when I should be prepping for another meeting.
I know, I know, there are certainly difficulties for other parents, for other reasons, even if your child isn’t on an IEP. Perhaps, it is these parents that can most closely empathize with the trials and tribulations of the IEP parents. Most have no idea what we encounter, in our efforts for inclusion; it’s always interesting to see the reactions of those who finally get an inkling of our experience.
I’m quite certain that it’s no picnic to be on the other side of the meeting table, either. Here’s the thing, though: it’s nothing personal. I don’t care who is sitting across from me; I’m still going to advocate for my son. The problem that most of us probably face is that our advocacy efforts are taken as attacks on individuals. Then, it becomes all too easy for tempers to flare, for feelings to get hurt. But, listen: it’s usually not the teachers causing the parents’ frustrations. It’s a broken system, rooted in money issues (although nobody can come right out and say that) and the fact that our kiddos don’t contribute to the districts’ performance ratings because in most cases, they aren’t taking standardized tests. Those two elements make it very difficult to change the system in our kids’ favor. As long as the districts are meeting the minimum requirements, it is nearly impossible for the pleas of the parents to fall on cooperative ears. It’s been suggested to me more than once (by family, and quite frankly, myself!) that we should just move to another district. But then, though, we’ll have a whole new catalog of problems. It’s that pesky “grass is always greener” lesson that I’m not interested in learning again.
I’m absolutely not picking on the school district which my children attend, as I know that parents across the country, with kiddos of varying diagnoses, are having the exact same struggles that my family is having (in fact, some have much more daunting battles!). Our district is excellent and my other two children will benefit greatly from attending such wonderful schools. Of course, Alex has also benefited, in different ways; but, I am confident that he could benefit even more if we could all get on the same page.
Until that time comes, though, I will sit through as many meetings as it takes, and I will encourage other parents to do the same for their children. The “minimum” just isn’t good enough for any kid, but that is all they will get without strong advocacy efforts from parents. Fight hard, fight loud.
And if I have to be “that parent”, so be it.