If you have read my blog in the past, you may know that I loathe IEP meetings. I have never been in an IEP where I received shocking news nor have the teachers ever complained about Danny's behavior. In fact, it has mostly been just the opposite; I almost always receive encouraging and hopeful news of the progress he is making. Yet I invariably end up in tears in my van on the way home, inventorying what sugary, fat-laden treats I can easily get my hands on, in an attempt to self-medicate.
I am not entirely sure why that is. I guess I just feel bad for Danny that he has to struggle so much with so many areas of his life. Plus, really, who likes to sit there and listen to all the ways which her kid doesn't fit in?
Also, to be honest, I think at times I feel sorry for myself. Sorry that I have to work so much harder (or so it often seems to me) than parents of neurotypical kids, angry that parenting a kid with autism can be pretty stressful. And disappointed that he hasn't somehow miraculously outgrown all his challenges and delays.
Rational? No. But when are a person's feelings--especially those dealing with her offspring--rational?
This time it was different.
Friday, I had Danny's last IEP meeting of the year. And you know what? I didn't cry. Not even one tear. I got in my van and was actually smiling. And the idea of eating chocolate cake didn't even occur to me.
Even though we changed Danny's status from learning disabled to autistic, the meeting did not depress me. When the social worker went over a checklist for kids with autism, which included special areas that we should concentrate on in his IEP, there were at least three areas that we all agreed didn't even apply to Danny.
Academically, Danny is thriving, especially in areas where memorization is necessary. Even in abstract areas, though, Dan is progressing and even surprising his teachers. Ms. S, his special ed teacher was worried he would struggle with reading and comprehension. That hasn't really been the case. Later, she was concerned he would have difficulty grasping math concepts since they are so abstract. Yet Danny has excelled in math, and was the only kid in the class who understood the concept of money.
Socially, Danny is improving in obvious ways. His teacher says he talks to the other kids more, and I have noticed a big increase in the number of times he has initiated conversation with other kids. He has even been asking them questions and listening to their answers, which has been so delightful to witness.
While there are still concerns in most areas, Danny has made steady progress and has reached most of the goals his therapists had set for him. There is still much to be done, especially in the areas of social development and focusing his attention, but for some reason, this time, the negatives did not overwhelm me or make me feel defensive in any way.
And I really needed that. I so needed to be reminded of the amazing strides he has made in every area of his life. Just when I was getting discouraged at home (mostly about some setbacks he has had in the potty training arena), this meeting put it all back into perspective for me.
My son is such an amazing boy. Though he has struggled, he maintains the most incredibly contagious exuberance for life; his smile lights up a room and only the most hard-hearted can resist smiling back at him. On top of that, though he has some disabilities, he has always progressed and learned and grown. I need to remember that fact, especially when I am discouraged, because though some things take lots of extra work to help him master, Danny does indeed master them.
And really what more could I ask for?