Eligibility Where it Matters Most

Eligibility Where it Matters Most June 9, 2014

Have you read the report, Mrs. Ali?

Do you have any questions?

One by one, they asked me these two questions – regarding the observation report, speech and language evaluation, education report and the newest one – a functional vision assessment. (We waived the need to do a psychology evaluation this time, as everyone on the team agreed nothing had changed in that area.)

Yes, I have read the report.

No, I don’t have any questions.

(I have a million questions, but none of them pertain to the evaluations done on my son, which are laid out in front of me.)

It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve sat through these IEP (individualized education plan) eligibility meetings. Reading the words and discussing Lil D’s evaluations, strengths and weaknesses are tough. While these particular IEP meetings rarely worry me, because I know Lil D easily meets criteria for his diagnosis, they still are emotionally difficult to sit through

Called triennials, these particular IEP meetings happen every three years for children who have different school-approved diagnosis (autism, developmental delays, speech and language delays, hearing impairment, vision impairment, learning delays  and so on) to determine if they still qualify for that diagnosis and the services that come with it.

(Recently the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, changed its diagnosis of autism to include other previous separate diagnosis like Aspergers under one big umbrella, which caused the Department of Education to adjust eligibility criteria for autism)

Yes, he is still totally eligible for his autism diagnosis. Yes, he clearly still has a speech delay, too.  And hell, if things weren’t tough enough, let’s throw vision impairment into the mix as well.

(Because that has been the additional heartache of late that I hinted about in recent months. After a trip to the ER for a CT scan when we feared he had a concussion a few months back, we discovered something was very amiss with his right eye. I’m not going to go into the details for the sake of Lil D’s privacy, but the long and short of it is that he has severe vision impairment as well as a cataract in his right eye.  And it happened in the past few months without any of his loved ones, teachers, therapists or dozens of other caregivers in his life knowing until that fated trip to the ER. And treatment, if it can be treated, is oh so very tricky.)

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it still hurts. Not Lil D being who he is. But seeing his struggles and challenges mapped out in black and white on paper hurts.

But he is more than that. So much more that rarely comes up in these meetings, but that which I hold onto tightly deep inside of me. He meets eligibility in love and light. In dignity and respect. In growth and progress, and in intelligence and strength. He meets eligibility in potential and self worth. And, he meets eligibility in deen and dunya in ways that elude the rest of us — all things I know in my heart.

Eligibility in all the things that matter most.

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