We have an IEP meeting today, the first of two IEP meetings scheduled over the next few months. For this year is Noah's re-evaluation year, the year he's due for...wait for it, oh, you'll never guess...a re-evaluation of his strengths and weaknesses and needs and services, up to an including the Big Label that keeps him in special education and keeps my mother-in-law up at night for fear of his PERMANENT RECORD and her continued, unshakable belief that the public school system is legally allowed to tie him to a cheerful Circle Time Chair and forcibly inject Ritalin into his veins. IT HAPPENS. SNOPES IS IN ON IT TOO.
This particular meeting is, quite frankly, going to be bullshit. Not much more than a procedural checkpoint. We will show up and be told about all the different evaluations and testing procedures they plan to do before our next IEP meeting, the big one that will determine his placement for first grade. (Where there are no Circle Time Chairs, but I believe you may be able to request one of those coin-operated massage recliners for your child's Clockwork Orange-style med drip. Fingers crossed!) They will hand us five trees' worth of paper detailing everything we just talked about and our 17th copy of the Parental Rights & Responsibilities handbook that we cannot turn down because they found a typo on page 47 of the last version, thank you and we'll see you again in a couple months, time for the next family, moving on, thanks.
At almost half past six years old, Noah has no real trace of a speech delay, the thing that started All Of This. He never shuts up, actually. Sometimes his grammar is a tad mixed up and full of extra words that buy him precious processing seconds, and he still adorably pronounces V as B. (As in "This lebel of Plants Bersus Zombies is really hard.") But other than that, he's your typical chatty exuberant omg inside voice, Noah kid. Bonus: he's learned all kinds of delightful words from his classmates, or at least he thinks he has.
"Damage!" he says, deviously scanning my face for a reaction. "Beenis slug! Poople tale!"
His brain seems to be running a constant loop of things he's seen or heard -- usually TV or movies which he memorizes like a human tape recorder -- and he has a hard time turning off the recall or understanding that not everybody else in the room has any idea what he's talking about when he randomly decides to talk about how the bad bird was up on the roof but then the thing fell down and that was funny, right? Right? Right Mom? Right?
"What are you talking about?" I usually end up asking, exasperated that I am unable to coax more than five words from him about his day at school but will get several hundred about some bit of an Angry Birds fan video he watched once on YouTube.
The thing is, TV and movies help, too, especially with the bigger social picture and his ongoing issues with rigidity and anxiety. The Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies and books, for example, maybe play to his current obsession with potty talk than I'd like (OMG THE MOTHERFUCKING IRONY), but have completely changed the way he treats his friends, and especially Ezra. "I'm not a mean brother like Rodrick," he says. "I'm a nice brother. I'm a friend brother."
The various iterations of Star Trek -- with different costumes and ship details and characters and hell, even actors -- have been hugely helpful when he's confronted with something being "different" or "not normal." Before that, Star Wars and Harry Potter and The Wizard of Oz taught him how to use his imagination.
And Kung Fu Panda 2, of all things, gave us the phrase "inner peace" as an effective code for "rest your body" or "holy sensory freakout child, please calm dowwwwwwn."
And the auditory recall seems to work at school, too, despite how easily distracted he is by...well, EVERYTHING. The wiggly leg on his chair. The edge of his shirt sleeves. That other kid who is in time out for saying Something That Sounds A Lot Like "Damage." Anything and everything in the classroom that may have been moved from its usual location. The sound his mouth makes when he blows air out like this or like that.
Despite all the distractions, he's learning. He's reading. He's writing. He's drawing elaborate re-tellings of his favorite movies comic-book style on the wide sheets of paper we set out on his kindergarten-teacher-recommended Writing Station, up to and including the closing credits. His fine motor skills have never been better, and his teacher even declared his handwriting "beautiful," especially for a kid who only really figured out how to hold a crayon properly a year or so ago.
He says he hates school, which of course bothers me, but I sort of think that's the point: I roll my eyes at "damage" and "fartle fart" and "pooper diaper" but have a hard-to-resist kneejerk reaction to "I hate school." Why? Why do you hate school? What's wrong? What's happening there? Is it your teacher? The other kids? TELL ME SO I CAN FIX IT. I CAN CALL ANOTHER IEP MEETING AND FIX IT.
I should know by now it doesn't exactly work like that. Sure, there are things about Noah that I could cautiously, inelegantly call "fixed" or "resolved." Things that took years of therapy and effort and money. And other things that simply faded away with a little extra time: maturity on his part, understanding and creative thinking on mine. And other, other things that found unlikely, almost sudden solutions: A curved exit ramp, Star Wars, karate or sometimes just actual, real-life magic.
And of course there are still other things. Big things, subtle things, question-marky-let's-keep-our-eye-on-that things. The IEP helps with some of those things, along with OT and diet and a truckload of patience, so we keep chugging along and showing up and doing everything we possibly can to help, to guide, to aid.
But not to "fix."
Because you can't fix something that isn't broken. And my child is not, and never has been, broken.