At almost 19 years old, I attended my first IEP meeting. A couple months later (in spring 2014), while in attendance at my fourth meeting, I wrote the following letter.
Dear IEP team,
In the past couple months, I have attended three IEP meetings. Today is my fourth one. In the past month, I have watched you all sit together and talk about me. I have listened a little and have even tried my best to correct and respond to some of the things you have talked about. You all talk really fast, so it makes it sort of hard sometimes.
Today it appears you will continue talking about my behavior and the things I have a hard time with. You will probably all make comments about where I am and where you thought I would be by now, or where you hoped I would be. This has happened at every meeting I’ve attended. I don’t think any of you do it on purpose, but it’s quite annoying. That’s OK, though. Sometimes I wish I was further along, too. I want to make you all proud. I strive to make progress every day, and I do my best to show you. But I also frequently wish you would stop defining me by the things I can’t do or by the things I don’t do that well.
I wish you would talk about everything I can do — what I do right. However, it’s all looked past because of everyone’s different definitions of progress and perfection. You are so focused on fixing me that you can’t even notice how hard I work.
The thing I’m really trying to say and what I’ve been trying to say in the past month, is that I get my presence at this school is barely tolerated. The teachers do a very good job of making that clear to me. They are all very good at saying I shouldn’t be here, even the head principal. That’s OK. I’m fine with them and you thinking that. But I’m not OK with being talked about right in front of me or even worse, being the root of some adult’s joke. Like when my intervention specialist took my iPad from me, typed “My name is Jordyn Zimmerman and I smell like butt,” then proceeded to play it for other students. I’m not OK with that. Although, that’s just one example. There are many more things. I know they won’t be acknowledged, so I won’t waste my time going over every detail of everything I’ve heard and the things that have been said to me. But ask me about them and I will name each thing, where in the school I was and who else was around.
As has happened in the two of the three meetings I have been at, I’m sure people will talk about everything they’ve done to try and help me this year. Fortunately, many of the things were usually attempted. What you don’t understand is that on average we only did these things once or twice. But you don’t know that, so you will all sit and try to figure out why those things were never successful, or at least how you define successful.
Lastly, please remember I am part of this team. I am not some statistic. I know I may not always participate to everyone’s satisfaction, but I am the student, and given my title, I am still an important part of this team.
Thank you for trying to help me and understand my concerns. I’m sorry if I didn’t make these things clear to you, prior to today. I didn’t know how to.
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