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It's OK to Cry

Updated: Jul 9, 2022

I recently received my notification of our yearly IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting. (In some areas, these are called ARD or Admission, Review, and Dismissal meetings). Just reading the very polite and matter of fact email brought up a swell of stress and emotions inside me.

I will never forget the first one. Or its aftermath. After my child’s first IEP meeting, I sat alone in my car in the school parking lot for an unbelievably long period of time. I should have been going back to work. I couldn’t do it. Not yet. I felt completely raw and stripped bare. I didn’t even know how to process what I felt. From the parking lot, I ended up calling a dear friend with two kids who are older than mine who have dyslexia and have had a lot of struggles with school over the years. She had known I was going to my first IEP meeting and immediately asked how it went.

“It actually went as well as it probably could have gone,” I answered. “If I think about it logically, it was good. It could have been so much worse -- but I feel like all I want to do is cry.”
“I cry after every single one,” she told me.

This is a tough process.

Even to get to where we were that day, my husband and I had to go in and argue that our child had a disability. It is so emotionally taxing to have to tell people (occasionally forcefully) that there is ‘something wrong’ with your child. I see my child as smart, creative, loving, and hilarious. The struggles with handwriting, spelling, and getting thoughts out on paper are not at all characteristics of the person underneath. We have an amazing kid. But even though we could see all the learning issues, our child was not the required two grade levels behind in school and we had to essentially prove to the school that our kid had a problem.

To be clear, my child’s school has been very supportive and has really helped us. I am not blaming our specific school at all. They listen to me and when they can, they adjust the plan and accommodations. As I mentioned, even our first IEP goals meeting went well. We could have it much worse, and I know many people do. We are lucky.

It’s still hard, even in the best of situations. Parents are asked to “advocate” for their kids during qualification and to help advise plans and accommodations. This essentially requires bringing to light every challenge your child has and every weakness they are dealing with and publicly asking for help. You are telling the world about all the bad things, not about the amazing things that you really want to showcase about your child.

Plus, if you are in our community, you may have extra challenges. “Dysgraphia” is not a school recognized term and there is debate about its exact definition. You need to qualify for accommodations under “Specific Learning Disability of Written Expression” and many educators are not familiar this type of learning difference. Going through this arduous process was a big part of what made me create Dysgraphia Life. If we can help anyone and make this journey easier, we want to do that. (And many thanks to those of you who have reached out to tell us that we have helped. That is our motivation.)

It will be time for “re-qualification” next year and that brings up unspoken anxiety in me. Will I have to fight again to prove there is something wrong with my child? I don’t want to. I know we will still need a plan, yet I want to celebrate the good things and the success. But too much success means not enough need for extra help, so there is a very tricky balance. Honestly, I’m dreading it already.

To all the parents out there, facing these issues, doing the best you can for your kids, please know that you are not alone. We, and others, understand how hard it is and we are doing our best to help.

And it’s ok to cry.

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