It was nine months ago that my wife and I attended our last IEP meeting for Nemo. If you don’t know what an IEP is, you’ve clearly only just joined this blog, so I’ll try to explain briefly.
IEP stands for Individualized Education Program and is something school systems employ when dealing with mentally or physically disabled students. The idea behind these things is that the ordinary school curriculum will be modified by the IEP in ways specific to the child’s special needs, thereby ensuring that he or she gets the highest-quality education they can receive under the system. I am unaware if IEPs are used in private-school settings (I suspect they aren’t), as Nemo has been a public-school student for his entire life.
The IEP is not static. Every year the parents, the education team and a representative from the school district meet to discuss the child’s IEP. The child’s success or failure according to the standards set by the IEP are examined, and the goalposts are established for the upcoming year.
Every IEP meeting is stressful. On the one hand you have the school, which wants to provide as many services as can be accommodated in order to benefit the child. On the other hand you have the school district, which wants to minimize those services in order to save money. This problem is especially compounded when the child attends, like Nemo, a “separate, private day school,” which has an enormous cost attached to it. A year of schooling for Nemo costs upwards of $42,000.
Granted, Nemo gets a lot for that $42,000. For one, he’s attended to by an in-house psychiatrist who monitors his health and medications. For another, he’s given access to mental-health services, speech therapy and other things necessary for his education and improvement. A whole squad of people attend Nemo’s IEP meetings, in addition to his mother and me, and it’s more than a little intimidating even accounting for the fact that all of these people are on Nemo’s side.
An IEP meeting can also be disheartening. At this last IEP review, it was determined that Nemo no longer needed dedicated occupational therapy. OT involves learning and practicing the sort of things most of us take for granted, like handwriting or tying our shoes or brushing our teeth. Nemo never got a whole lot of this, but I was reluctant to let it go. I plan to ask for it back this time around.