An IEP For Parents

This morning, I came across a mother wishing she could have an IEP for herself.  Her reason?  There is so much to manage and to learn for parents, especially when your children need support to meet their potential.  She says:

How does one set goals for, say, the next six months, and then, gulp, work towards them? In a family affected by disability, things change in an instant. I’m doing well if I get my kids to the dentist and remember the weekly occupational therapy appointment that I seem to forget … every week. My needs are last in the family, or minute to minute at best.

I can certainly relate.  My life has been turned inside out since our children were small, and while I wouldn’t trade a minute of it, there have been more moments than I can count when I wondered how I would get my act together.

And then I thought, I DO have an IEP.

For the last year or so, we have had the blessing of participating in the Relate program at the Rehabilitation Centre for Children.  We meet  (without kids) every two weeks and focus on one or two main goals at a time. Some of them are about me. Others are about what I can do to help kids grow in a new way.  The resource for understanding ourselves and our kids and for goal-setting  happens to be RDI, but I think the beauty of this is just common-sense – gentle and paced to what we can handle.

Really, we might have a whole lot of goals for ourselves or our kids – but when you’re overwhelmed one or two is all you can focus on at a time.  And I can safely say that it’s bearing fruit.  Our kids are changing in noticeable ways, doing more for themselves, interacting much more easily and comfortably, sharing their thoughts, playing and having fun with each other.  I’m doing better too – setting goals for things I want to do, and I’m more relaxed and less fearful about the future, and enjoying my children more.

The problems and challenges haven’t gone away.  I still have to figure out how to fit the goals into daily life, how to communicate them to others (like school staff and respite workers), how to manage our family’s time, and when to say no or yes to opportunities.

But here’s an example.  We took our kids to see New Years fireworks (at 8 pm) at one of the busiest, noisiest places in Winnipeg.  You couldn’t walk without touching people.  We had thought we’d solve the parking problem by being there a bit early.  I checked the location’s website, which said stores would be open ’till 8.  There’s a toy store – so no problem.  Except… we got there and the toy store was closed.  And my son does not like being out in the cold.  So we walked around among the indoor crowds for almost an hour with a very loud band playing – in the end we did find a quieter hallway to wait.

The kids were fine!  We looked at things, we talked a little, they waited patiently, and they enjoyed the display when the time came. We could not have done that a year ago.

We had a plan based on what our kids are ready for.  Do you need an RDI program to do this?  It helps a lot, but I think the same effect could be reached in other ways.  You need a support network, some good information, and reasonable goals.

The author of the post I read came to the same conclusion:

Even in our sometimes inharmonious homes when we haven’t even a moment to ourselves, we can still attempt a little self-care. We can live intentionally there. Yes, even there. 
 
The full post of Where’s My IEP by Gillian Marchenko can be found here.
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