Tuesday, May 9, 2017

IEP (Individual Encouraging Positivity)

When your child has special needs, it's easy to feel like you're not doing enough for him. This can be especially true when it's time to update your child's Individual Education Plan. 

Maybe there are goals from the previous IEP that he hasn't yet met. You might think, Why didn't I work harder on that goal with him at home?

Maybe you get the new IEP and feel overwhelmed with the sheer number of goals there are to work on. You might think, I can't possibly help him with all of these things at home. You wish you could, but there are just so many things to do: work, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and the list goes on.

I fell into this trap of negative thinking with regards to my son's IEP meeting tomorrow. The negativity was draining me of energy yesterday evening, and I spent a longer time than I care to admit on the couch, watching Netflix and aimlessly browsing the internet. 

This was not the best use of my time.*

So today, I'm working on adjusting my attitude. Below are some actions that are helping me. I hope they'll help you, too, if you find yourself falling into a similar trap of negative thinking about the IEP.

Think of all of the things that your child can do now that he couldn't do a year ago. My son can now (receptively) identify pictures in books. He can now share objects of interest with others. He can now more effectively communicate some of his desires. He is now using his left hand more than he used to. And the biggie: He can now walk independently. 

Think of all of the things that you have done to help your child make that progress. I've read to him. I've modeled communication skills, such as signing, for him. I've taken him on walks. I've encouraged him to use his left hand. I've loved him.

Remember that the school staff are there to help your child. No one expects you to single-handedly help your child meet all of his IEP goals. That would be unrealistic. Thankfully, you have a whole team of qualified teachers and therapists who, together with you, can help him make progress.

Cultivate feelings of gratitude toward the school staff. My son's teacher does one-on-one work with him to help him master pre-academic skills. His therapists identify ways in which therapy can be incorporated into the classroom and then communicate those ideas to his teacher, teaching assistants, and aides. I am so grateful that they do these things.

Be kind to yourself. For me, this means allowing myself time to read, write, and watch inspiring YouTube videos, and treating myself to M&Ms (preferably in my Best. Mommy. Ever. mug, courtesy of my hubby and kiddo). It also means reminding myself that parenting a child with special needs is a challenging job and, although I'm not perfect, there are certainly things that I'm doing right.

*I'm completely fine with watching Netflix and aimlessly browsing the internet in moderation.

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