by Shadra Bruce

It’s spring. The birds are chirping, the crocuses are popping up. It’s time to start thinking about gardening and traveling and sunblock. It’s also the time of year when those parents who have special needs kids begin the process of negotiating with the school to build the individualized education plan (IEP) to cover the next school year.

For as long as I’ve been with Dave (14 years) I have been involved in the IEP process for Kyle. Kyle is 20 and was born with Down syndrome. In the beginning, I went to the meetings and felt lost. Now, I am a strong advocate for Kyle and comfortable speaking on his behalf to make sure he gets the education he needs. We are in the process of mapping out his transition from school to adult services.

Kyle is done with school this June. We would not have had an IEP meeting this spring.


Yesterday, our 11-year old was diagnosed with Asperger’s. The diagnosis in many ways is a relief. For years we have fought teachers and schools and tried to explain and defend our son’s ‘uniqueness’ and demonstrating to teacher’s and specialist that the behaviors were not that of a bad kid but simply about not being able to handle the situation (things like group projects, assemblies, the chaos at the end of the day when getting ready to go home really have a negative impact).

So, next week, Dave and I will once again make the trip in to meet with the Committee for Special Education (CSE), and once again start the journey down the road to crafting an IEP that helps teachers understand our child and get the supports needed to be successful – without the accompanying judgment and punishments meted out by teachers who choose to see a behavior issue.

Our children are perfect the way they are, with all of their “quirks” intact. To help them understand, we describe it this way:

You’re a square. You have great corners. We like your corners and we want them to be there. But the school likes circles, and does their best to make every single student fit into circles. To do that, they try to cut off corners to make you more round. We don’t want you to be a circle. We want you to be exactly who you are, because you are perfect. So we’re going to help the school understand that they can’t cut off your corners and stuff you in a circle. They’re going to have to learn to like you as a square and accommodate your corners.