Being on the other side of an IEP meeting (a meeting put in place for educators and parents to discuss an individualized educational plan) for your own child is eye opening.
As I sat and listened to the teachers and therapists roll off all of my daughter’s gains in just 30 days, her strengths, her radiating personality, her triumphs, and her future goals, I felt myself fighting back tears.
I sat on the other side of this meeting as a parent, rather than in my typical role as a special educator.
It was emotional thinking about my child as having so many deficits; her diagnosis made it easy to separate her from the growing population of children her age as demonstrated through her doctor visit “milestone charts,” comparison checklists during evaluations that deem her below range, personal observations as her typical peers develop, and the expectations deemed appropriate set by our very own society.
But in this moment, I was fighting back proud tears. I was emotional thinking about where her deficits did not define her.
My daughter was highlighted in this meeting- not for her diagnosis or where she falls short, but where she is thriving.
There were many times I smiled when they spoke about Hailey- a smile so wide and a consistently nodding head, so that the tears wouldn’t fall down my face.
As I listened to the stories about her nap refusal, or how she comes to school giggling, or how the teachers observe her sassy personality through her mannerisms and voice inflections, I felt that my daughter was being seen and heard on a level that I never thought would exist in this world.
I thought to myself, how many times have parents been in a meeting when they wanted to cry tears of joy? I thought… were there parents sitting on the other side wanting to cry because they were overcome with so many fears for their child?
I was first a teacher of English, and then earned my master’s in special education. What I learned in school was practical, but it did not prepare me for real life, actual, teaching. As teachers, we are told to read the student’s IEP first, so legally, we know how to best serve them. While I agree with that practice, I do not let the diagnosis define that child.
And, while integrating both hats, teacher of students with learning differences, and mom of a neurodiverse child, I have learned that I will experience so many times in life when people do not see Hailey for Hailey first, and just see the symptoms they googled online.
But, on the flipside, I know there will be others, the special people who I am privileged to know and have in my life, who will see Hailey for Hailey, and her gifts, her achievements, her victories, and her sweet, sassy, adorable, funny personality shining through her beautiful smile.