I hate/heart meetings

Aidan had his transition IEP meeting last week which means his present team got to talk to the team that will be working with him in his new school this fall. IEP meetings generally make me feel like this:


No matter how many good meetings I have, which I’ve had many in the past few years, they always feel like a surprise. It’s a bit ridiculous, but I feel like the culture of special education is set up as “us” vs “them.”

Here are five specific reasons it was a good meeting:

1. There was very clear communication. The special education director specifically made sure the new IEP reflected exactly what Aidan needs. For example, because he has seizures Aidan needs an aide on the bus and he currently has one. It was verbalized, agreed on, and written down to make sure that service will continue. We also catalogued every piece of equipment that will follow him to the new school. This kid doesn’t travel light.

2. They take his motivation seriously and even put their money where their mouth is. Aidan sits on a scooter board and works his trunk muscles and arms muscles really well. He also signs “more.” It’s the one sign he has and he only uses it in this scenario. This is a highly motivating task for a kid who doesn’t care much about anything other than moving. Since he’s gotten too big for the regular scooter boards, the PT requested a new bigger one. Aidan’s getting it because it’s so important. Several IEP goals will be met and Aidan will have a blast.

3. I didn’t have to blab on and on about how I feel about inclusion because his current team mentioned it several times. Research says it benefits everyone and Aidan learns well with his peers. It was a difficult road in the beginning to get everyone on board with this concept but not anymore. His general education teacher gave several specific examples of how the entire classroom benefits with Aidan there. We got to talk about what general education teachers and classes would be a good fit for Aidan next year. It’s especially wonderful that this message came from the “professionals” because it takes away the weirdness that this is just something emotional that I want.

3. Aidan’s strengths were celebrated. Let’s face it; the entire meeting is based on disability and what Aidan needs to succeed because he has so many deficits. It can be a total downer. It is NEVER ok to go through an IEP meeting without talking about a student’s strengths, not ever. And here was a shining moment – the OT that will be working with him in the fall has worked with him during summer school. She said she has been waiting years for Aidan to be hers…. she’s joyfully anticipating working with him full time! How awesome is that?

4. Ok, so this point is sort of about marriage. All things Aidan-care related can be emotional. This meeting held a lot of anxiety for me because Aidan has a great team now and change is hard. Logistically speaking, I attend the meetings because I have a flexible work schedule. Let’s just say Garreth and I didn’t bring our best selves to the planning of this meeting. One of us may have shot off a hurt/angry/snarky email to the other. (I’m not telling who but it wasn’t the one who watched his kid drive into a door). Garreth showed up to the meeting because he knew I needed to be reminded that we’re on the same team.

And because it’s Teacher Appreciation Week I send out a HUGE thank-you to his team and this great message from Jen Hatmaker.


On Mobility: First Wheels and Jetpacks

A warm welcome to Mary Evelyn’s readers. Thank-you for joining our journey. I would be honored if you read the About Us page to find some of my favorite writings.

And to my readers – I’m excited to introduce you to Mary Evelyn of What Do You Do, Dear? I first became intrigued with her blog because her son Simeon also uses a wheelchair but he’s so young! It still blows me away how kids surprise us with what they can achieve. Mary Evelyn writes with humorgrace, and truth and I encourage you to follow her blog. 

We’re doing a blog swap today because we both feel so strongly about the importance of mobility and recognize that it can be an emotionally challenging topic. We hope that our stories get you thinking and talking. Use the comment section on either of our blogs to ask us questions or share your mobility story.

I’m over at her place today sharing more about Aidan’s wheels. Go check me out there but first, read about Simeon’s Jetpack…..



“But maybe he could walk if he just did it really slow, like this?”

She spoke with the seriousness of a scientist, deep in thought as she paced with painfully slow and stiff-legged steps across the room.  She was one of my third grade students and she was trying to figure out how to help my son walk.

My students know about Simeon. They know about his puffy blond hair and his penchant for stealing medicine bottles. They know about his trach and his wheelchair too, which has led to a variety of kid created “mobility tips” ranging from the comical (maybe if he doesn’t bend his knees– kinda like a robot?) to the absurd (he should just use a jetpack!).  Their ideas are as creative as they are preposterous but each zany suggestion reminds me of something I know to be true: mobility matters. 

We never decided that our son needed a wheelchair– we knew it would be so from the day we brought him home from the hospital, his arms stretching and curling in constant
motion while his legs slept warm and quiet under a blanket. But knowing didn’t make it easy and I still remember that deep aching in my belly the first time I saw his tiny frame sitting between those two wheels. Visually, it was a shock. He looked so young. Dare I say it– he looked so disabled. I worried it would change the way people viewed him.

Simeon got his first wheelchair when he was 11-months-old. Not all children with spina bifida require a wheelchair, but those who do generally receive their first wheels around age two. That means two years of being held. Two years of being carried. Two years of exploring only the items and spaces within arms length.  Two years is too long.

Getting our chair early was lucky. It was a rickety loan from the county and it veered to the left if he went too fast but the moment Sim sat in that seat, we saw the world
unfurl before him. It was like an awakening– not just for his exploration, but for his communication and for his desire to be involved.  It changed him and it changed the way we saw him, too. I found myself letting him take the reigns. He can’t became he can.

Because mobility matters.

Even my third graders know it. I know it too.

I know it in the simple things— like when he chases shadows across our backyard deck or spins himself around to get a better look at the neighbor’s lawnmower.

I know it in the messy things— like when I see him sneak into the kitchen and dump the contents of each drawer onto the floor or catch him digging a stranger’s discarded soda can out of the garbage for a taste.

I know it in the tough things— like when I sit with him on the grass beside the swing set, wondering how to help him climb it, or when I carry him up and down the stairs in other people’s homes that are not built for people like us.

Even when it hurts, it matters. Getting kids moving matters so much more than how they move. Maybe it’s legs, maybe it’s a jetpack, maybe it’s a wheelchair– anyway, it’s time to go exploring.

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You can watch a video of Simeon’s first week on wheels HERE

 Mary Evelyn Smith is a Children’s Librarian and blogger living in
Columbus, Ohio with her husband and her bespectacled toddler. She writes
about life, laughs, and (not so) perfect parenting at www.whatdoyoudodear.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.