Got off early from my practicum today. Sun is out and shining! I’d love to run but not enough time before I have to catch my bus at 2:45. Instead, I thought I’d share what I’ve been mulling over on my drive back from Hillsborough.
I attend at least one (often two or three) IEP meetings daily (note on IEP: an IEP is an Individualized Education Plan – a written record required by public schools which details a plan for who, what, where, why, when, how a child will receive special services like Speech Therapy). IEP meetings require a parent be present or participate by proxy (ie: phone).
The meetings start out unremarkably: the SLP discusses evaluation results and the proposed goals/treatment plan; the parent looks on – often with wide, overwhelmed expressions; they are bombarded with so much new information and lingo. Most parents probably had never heard of an IEP before they were contacted by a school representative. These meetings are highly repetitive and structured, but there’s my favorite part that never gets old. It’s a short moment, really. But, it’s an incredibly insightful moment.
“Now,” says the SLP, “What are your goals for Johnny?”
If the parent didn’t look overwhelmed before, many certainly do at this question. “I just want Johnny to catch up to his peers,” or “to communicate his needs and wants,” they’ll often respond.
“And,” the SLP continues, “what is your vision for Johnny’s future?”
That question hits the parent like a brick; they look bewildered. What?! You’re asking me to have a vision for Johnny? I didn’t envison he’d be in speech-therapy, you crazy people! Then the initial shock wears off. Some parents smile, clearly appreciating the interest the team has in their son’s life. Some who have sat in silence the entire meeting will detail Johnny’s entire family history and hardships and struggles. Still others will sit in further silence, clearly struggling to come up with any vision at all.
It’s hard to blame them; These parents are not parents of ‘typical’ children; these are parents who have just been informed that their child has a disability or a delay – ranging from mild to moderate to quite severe. These parents are hearing that their child qualifies for special education for the first time. It has to be conflicting.
But it’s this moment that’s my favorite; right at that initial thought, I feel like I glimpse what a parent’s love for a child must feel like.
I’m struggling to put a name to what it is I see in their eyes.
It’s something along the lines of ‘unconditional love.’
It’s this ‘aha!’ recognition that they are a protector, a provider a parent, the one who gets the final say on opportunities for their child. It is their moment to verbalize a goal, a vision; to seriously (and perhaps for the first time) contemplate their child’s unique future – and how that might (or might not) be different from what they had perfectly planned.
In that moment their eyes tell a story. There is a wide variety of answers, but my favorite moment is less about what they say and more about what I see; I see fragments of love, sometimes jumbled all over the place, come together – in even the most distracted, disinterested, most silent parent.
A parent’s love for a child must be a crazy thing. I don’t really understand it; I only glimpse it.