IEPs suck

there, i publicly said it.  and having to do them in five different states and nine different schools sucks that much more. sorry for my frankness here but i think most parents, who have gone through the process, would agree that individual education plans (IEPs) just plain 'ole suck. if you don't know what an IEP is, consider yourself lucky!! i educators understand the anxiety that an IEP produces for parents? i mean REALLY understand? maybe only those few, who happen to have a child, with a disability, themselves. i get teary just thinking about the IEP, let alone sitting at the, what's suppose to be, an equal team member.

i have made myself about crazy as i prepare for kiele's IEP tomorrow morning.  i sit here...cautiously optimistic and then that other side creeps in and says, they're going to fuck with you. be prepared -- and then i begin to freak out. yes, i've done a great job thus far. i know that. but i have three years left. and i can't let anything get screwed up. kiele's come too far. and she's doing too amazing. i've simply done what i was supposed to do and must continue to do so until she is ready to advocate for herself (and hopefully by that time, i will have taught her well).

it's just so HARD.

my advice to mommas of children with disabilities or needs, who are dealing with the special education system... know your stuff. and the laws. research. research. and more research. find other parents with children with a similar disability... kiele absolutely would not be where she is today without the knowledge and insight i gained from other parents. there can be a wealth of information in organizations and forums (check them out). stay strong. know that only YOU will truly advocate for your child... and that you know your child best. fight for what's appropriate (and know the buzz words). find that one person within the educational system who is on your side... who is willing to fight the system and risk their career if it's the right (or shall i say appropriate) thing to do. listen to others but know that your child's situation is absolutely unique.

years ago, i thought that i would pursue a career in special ed advocacy. who knows...i still might. along with photography, it's something that i'm deeply passionate about.

thank you maura and diane.  the two of you taught me everything i know and created the advocacy monster that i am today.  love you both dearly!!

as i go into my 11th IEP meeting, i can't help but reminisce...

shortly after kiele was diagnosed with a progressive hearing impairment (age 3 | may 2000)

kiele's cochlear implant surgery, post-op day two (age 6 | sep 2003)

her treasures. an image from when i first started photography (age 9 | 2006)

on her birthday (age 14 | couple weeks ago)