Earlier this week we had our first IEP meeting at the school district for the fireman.  He’s entering kindergarden in the fall and we needed to get him in the system, which has been an overwhelming undertaking.  We’ve been in the early intervention/special education program for a year now, but we’ve received the majority of our services through medical coverage and not educational coverage. This is the first time where we have legal rights within the school district for help in a school setting.

I’m on a couple of facebook boards for children with autism or sensory issues and I’ve been watching the battles that my fellow mom’s are fighting within our school district just to get the legal rights that their children are entitled to.  It has not been pretty.  Many of the mother’s have hired the services of a lawyer or an advocate to draft reports for them and attend meetings with them.  I’ve been secretly terrified that we weren’t going to have the resources to hire someone… and we don’t even know what it is that he needs or what we’re fighting for.

I’ve made great strides in getting the fireman into a fantastic autism medical program and we have three appointments scheduled over the next month to evaluate his condition and create a treatment plan.  I had to jump though hoops to get these appointments- and push a little to get them earlier rather than later- but I was able to get him in and I feel so much relief.  I think that this success helped fuel me for our next battle: the IEP meeting.

At the special needs fair that I attended a few weeks ago, I met a fellow autism mom and she gave me some great tips for our IEP meeting, including creating a master report to give the IEP team.  And create I did.  The drive and skills that make me so good at my job finally paid off in my family life because I was able to pull together a 1″ thick report including every single evaluation that the fireman has ever had and a complete (read: overly thorough) timeline of events.  Little did I know just how important this would turn out to be.

The day of the meeting, Bruno and I sat in our little chairs at the child-size table, nervous and unsure of what to expect.  ”Tell us about the fireman’s strengths,” they said.  We dove in…  ”He’s kind, loving, sweet, charming, highly intelligent…”  On it went.  ”Give us an idea of when you first began to notice problems,” they asked.

I handed them the binder and referred them to page 3.

They were flabergasted.  Some parents don’t even show up to these meetings.  We showed up with an arsenal.

The meeting went on for nearly an hour and we felt that it was really good progress.  They ordered a battery of tests and promised to call for scheduling later in the week.  We really felt like they were a good team to have on our side.

Within two days of that meeting, I received calls from 3 of the team members, all expressing the same sentiment: They were under the impression that the fireman could have been mainstreamed and would no longer qualify for services because of the report they received from his special education caseworker.  But after reviewing the report I submitted, they disagreed and were ordering further testing and working towards sensory and autism intervention.  After each phone call I nearly hit the ceiling with happiness that I was able to pull it together and fight for my child… and that I had forced people to listen… and they were!

After the meeting, when Bruno and walked out to the parking lot we were both feeling amazing and, oddly, more in love with each other.  We were so proud of the parents that each of us had become, proud to have the partners that we did, so proud of our little boy- our extraordinary little boy with crazy potential.  Together, we siezed control and were in the driver’s seat.  Finally.

I don’t know how our future meetings will go, but I have more hope than I’ve had in long time.  I may not believe that the system will come through for us, but I believe that we have the strength and power to fight until we get what the fireman deserves.

My facebook status the night before our meeting:  I am going to kick some EIP butt tomorrow. Do not mess with a mom wielding binders! I will (paper) cut someone if my child doesn’t get what he deserves from the school district!

For more tales of heroic motherhood (aka, a mom with a bottle of wine and laptop) visit my website at www.verystrangebird.com.