My husband and I went to our first IEP meeting together, neither one of us having a clue about what to expect. When we walked into the room, there were 10 people gathered around a large conference table to talk to us about our son Alec, who has and .
A few weeks earlier we had seen the school psychologist to hear the results of Alec’s evaluation. Now we were meeting with the team to hear if Alec qualified for services — and if so, what type.
It had been a long road to get to this point, and my husband and I weren’t always on the same page. I now know how typical we were. I was deeply engaged in our son’s struggles, while my husband operated from a distance. I was quick to accept and act; he was more cautious.
When Alec was in first grade, I could see he was struggling with reading and writing. He was becoming anxious as he saw his peers accomplishing tasks that he couldn’t. I began looking things up, and I came across a checklist of 10 signs of dyslexia. If your child has four or more of the signs, he might have dyslexia. My son had nine.
I showed my husband, thinking that I had found the answer. I was ready to dive right in, learn as much as possible, and have Alec evaluated. I assumed my husband would feel the same way. But he had a different response. He said that he had struggled in school, and we shouldn’t be so quick to place a label on our son.
So we waited. Alec continued to struggle, and his self-esteem withered. Homework was especially challenging. He would come home from school tired and frustrated. It would take hours to complete an assignment. My husband wasn’t home for much of the homework battle and didn’t fully understand the stress resulting from it. He felt our son just wasn’t trying hard enough.
I was getting frustrated, too. I wanted my husband to see what I was seeing. So I asked if he would work with Alec on his weekly spelling words. Every night my husband would sit and make him write the words over and over, and then test him to see if he could recall them. They reviewed more difficult words more frequently. And every night would end in an argument.
Finally, the spelling test would come and Alec would inevitably fail, getting words wrong that he had gotten right during the week. My husband soon realized that it wasn’t that Alec wasn’t trying, but that there was something more going on.
Walking into that first IEP meeting, seeing all of the educators around the table telling us about our son and his struggles, something clicked for my husband. He saw that this wasn’t going to be easy. He realized that we had to work together to provide our son with what he needed to thrive.
When we left, we discussed the details of the meeting. Although we’d always been a team in the other aspects of our marriage, it finally felt like we were on the same page on this as well.
After that day he came to every IEP meeting we had. He didn’t speak much during them, but he listened intently. It was a relief to have someone to talk to before and after meetings. Someone who was hearing the same things as I was.
It made me realize how important it was for parents to have a partner in this process. That person doesn’t have to be a spouse — a family member or a close friend could also fill that role.
Once Alec was on a good path, getting the help he needed, I started a support group for parents of children with disabilities. I wanted to help other parents who were struggling to help their child. I wanted to provide them with a community so they didn’t feel alone.
My husband attended every meeting, setting up chairs, arranging coffee and treats. He stayed in the background, but he was always there. He understood how important it was. And he didn’t need to say anything to show his support; being there said it all.
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About the author
About the author
Suzanne Lang is the parent and partner advisor for Understood at the Poses Family Foundation.