Paper Trail

Hello world! It’s been a while since I’ve been on here. Life has been pretty hectic but, those events are for another blog. Today I will be touching on something I realize I’ve never really talked about on here much to my surprise. Tonight were gonna talk about the dreaded three letter acronym, an acronym that strikes fear in parents of children with special needs yearly or however many times a year you have to deal with it. Parents who read this blog already know what rabbit hole we’re gonna jump in today or, you’re probably impatient and jumped to the second paragraph of this blog post. Gosh people, y’all gotta rush through shit and not take time to appreciate it. You’re the type of people who skimmed through books in English class and didn’t take time to take in the symbolism. Then again, I also skimmed through books and didn’t take the time to take in the symbolism which I’m pretty sure our English teachers made up because let’s be real, I don’t think that bowl full of fruit or those blue curtains were ever meant to serve any other purpose except to exist in the scenery. You have to wonder if English teachers did that shit intentionally to justify making homework assignments, quizzes and, essays for a book in the first place. Anyways, before I get carried away let’s just get on with it shall we? You have to wonder if these first paragraphs are as unwarranted as the small talk nurses make when they’re about to stick you with some needle or other sharp medical instrument. Like, we already know you’re gonna inflict some form of pain on me for the longest 2-3 seconds of my life so can we just get on with this shit already. Without further adieu, let’s just get on with this shit shall we?

So a few weeks ago I was digging through some old shoe boxes in my closet when I found a bunch of old IEPs. These IEPs spanned as far back as preschool and man, this was some pretty cryptic shit. We’re talking NFL playbook crypitic, like mixed messages from your significant other cryptic, like reading furniture assembly instructions in a foreign language cryptic, like Jumanji instructions cryptic. I didn’t know if I was reading an IEP or some bizzare alien language. There were a shit ton of charts and graphs and other wonderful things that only the people who wrote this stuff would be able to explain to me. Thankfully I have a younger sister who has a BA in psychology and is going for a masters in school psychology so, I was able to get some Spark Notes (for you children out there, Spark Notes is how we crammed two nights worth of English assignments into 15 minutes when you didn’t want to look like a complete ass in class, hey that rhymes). Through all of this, I was able to figure out the great length these people went into crafting various learning and behavioral plans. They were a bunch of papers that gave you a glimpse of who I was or did they?

Growing up, I’ve had the opportunity to read my IEPs and never quite understood what they were saying about me at the time. As a matter of fact, I never got involved in meetings and with the process of crafting my IEP until high school. I never knew what the hell was going on, my mother would come to school one evening, meet with  all of my teachers and before you knew it, shit don’ changed. It’s like trying out one of your alcoholic friend’s dangerous mixed drinks. One moment everything is fine and the next minute, you’re on your ass and you don’t know which way is up. Now for those who don’t know what an IEP is, it stands for Individualized Education Plan. It’s essentially a specific set of instructions teachers need to abide by when teaching you when it comes to your disability. It tells teachers any accommodations you might need like extra time on tests, use of a calculator, separate testing environment, modified tests or homework assignments, etc. They also include a list of goals to aim for by the next review period which can usually be anywhere from six months to a year from the date of the meeting. This would also be the time where teachers tell you what they think is best for your child and a time for parents to fight for the accommodations they know their child needs. These meetings can often get very stressful if the people you’re working with aren’t on the same page as you or are trying to expend as few resources as humanly possible on your child.

Once the IEP was set in stone for the next year, things weren’t a straight forward as you’d like them to be. I’ve had teachers deny me extra time on tests because I daydreamed during the test or couldn’t focus adequately that one day. I never spoke up because these teachers had away of making it seem like it was your fault. I never knew back in 7th grade that these accommodations were a right and not a privilege that could be taken because it didn’t benefit the teacher. I’ve also had another teacher in high school who just didn’t like giving me extra time on exams either. Again I never spoke up about it because I felt like it was my fault. Maybe if I studies just a bit harder, I could breeze through this test like everyone. “I just had to be a slow test taker, I suck” was often the thought process I used not realizing that once again I had the right to put my foot down. I struggled with self advocacy in high school, probably because I never got involved with the IEP process until then. My mother did all of the advocating and did a damn good job of it but, eventually adulthood would come and I would have to fight my own battles. Another problem was that I never really put two and two together. I never truly understood my own disability and how it affected me. I never realized that I just naturally had a short attention span and couldn’t focus efficiently on things that were of no interest to me. I also never knew the true social implications of my own disability, I never really understood for a while that I was quirky and weird because of my Autism. I never knew that it was because of my Autism, I struggled to make and keep friends, I struggled to talk to women, I still struggle with talking to women, my attention span can be complete and utter shit some days.

IEPs can also be the most discouraging things you will ever read as a parent and even as an individual with a disability. Your IEPs are often written by people who don’t always know your child as well as you do. My IEPs have painted many pictures of me but, they can’t predict the future. An IEP from 22 years ago couldn’t tell you that I would graduate from high school, that I would live on my own in college, that I would graduate from college with a 3.4 GPA, that I would get a drivers license and hold it for seven years, that I would be able to hold a job and manage my own bank accounts, that I would be in two relationships even though they went out in flames like Paul Walker’s car on a bad day (yeah I went there, too soon?), that I would get promoted at the job I’ve been at the last two years and get a nice raise (that’s a story for another day). The point of this isn’t to necessarily boast or paint a picture of where your child could be but, to remind people that while a piece of paper can help in getting your child the education they deserve, it can’t tell people who your child is. An IEP fails at explaining how truly intelligent your child is. An IEP isn’t a true measure of your child’s potential. At the end of the day, it’s just a fucking piece of paper, an important piece of paper in regards to education that in no way determines your child’s worth. To the people who read this blog who are in school, it doesn’t determine your worth either.

Anyways, that’s all folks. What you thought you were gonna get some post credits scene or paragraph? The fuck you think this is a Marvel movie? Go on, I’m sure you’ve got something to watch on TV. Oh, you mean I got your attention at promotion? Look guys, if I were to talk about that in this post then we’d have a book. Oh, you actually want a book? Sorry people but I don’t have the time tonight or ever. Okay maybe not ever but, it’ll be a while before you ever see a book from me. It will happen eventually and if my mother has her way, she’ll make me write it at gun point (I love you mom!). Stay classy peeps….

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One thought on “Paper Trail

  1. Pingback: Welcome To The Next Level |

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