The Importance of Challenging Yourself Part A , by Eileen

By June 15, 2024 Eileen, NVLD Bloggers

As I was leaving middle school and through high school my IEP teams tried to guide me in a different direction as they believed my stated plans were unrealistic and would cause unnecessary stress. Unfortunately, this experience doesn’t seem to be unusual so  I would like to share my examples and explain how your IEP team will realize your choices were correct and will become very proud of you.

For example, I was recommended to be the team manager for our girls’ soccer and basketball teams but instead stuck with my plans of running cross-country and track. This greatly upset my IEP team due to the nature of my NVLD they believed my needs couldn’t be fully supported. However, my family and I  knew this wasn’t true and shared why we believed this. One of the first things we talked about was how my parents believed Jim Adams, the Cross-Country coach, would connect with me given my strong work ethic and having similar life experiences(he raised a son with a disability). Another reason we felt this way was the track team always needed distance runners and the coaches valued effort first so including me likely wouldn’t be hard as I was a hard worker and would fit right in. Fortunately, they trusted our opinion and after my first complete year of running Varsity Cross-Country and Track any possible doubts were completely gone and they fully supported my running career.

My next example was being recommended for the resource room section only for English and History which right away we said not. My Dad,  being a Board of Ed member, knew these courses were greatly modified based on seeing students’ results and knew this section would be a very inappropriate academic placement for me as he knew I  performed better when I was challenged. In addition, my Mom added that these courses no longer follow the new full inclusion model as they didn’t have any non-disabled students enrolled. The CSE chairperson respectfully disagreed and questioned how these classes weren’t inclusion classes as she believed they followed the regular NYS requirements.  My mom answered that while they did meet the NYS requirements these sections were partial, not full inclusion. While they taught the main curriculum they only had disabled students enrolled.  Therefore she wasn’t agreeing to have me enrolled in this partial inclusion section as she believed in the full inclusion model. Thankfully my speech therapist agreed. While at first, they looked at us like we were crazy, eventually they trusted our decision and by the end of the first semester through achieving good grades everyone agreed this was the right placement.

Also, my family decided to apply to summer programs at boarding schools for students with learning disabilities during my freshman year. My IEP team found this unrealistic because the closest program to home was over 5 hours away so they thought for me the distance would be hard and that each program cost at least $6,000. What they didn’t know was that my parents highly valued giving their children experiences away from home and if it was for educational purposes they didn’t care about the cost as long as it provided their children with new experiences and happiness. After starting the lengthy application process my resource room teacher agreed we were making the right choice and became incredibly helpful to us throughout the process. I ended up choosing Eagle Hill and every summer was a remarkable experience. What was great about this experience was returning to school each fall so many teachers would comment about how much personal growth I made and in turn everyone saw how this was a positive experience for me.

Overall, it’s so important to speak professionally to your IEP team about how your choices and plans will work. Getting upset with them isn’t the answer as often they are just concerned about your general well being however I understand how at times IEP teams can become too concerned and can lean towards lowering the exceptions a little too much. If you can do this I truly believe through your determination and trusting yourself others will be very proud of you.  I know that creating my academic and personal plans was rather discouraging for the first year and a half however seeing my progress doubts eventually disappeared over the rest of my high school journey. My resource room teacher especially loved how I  never accepted the easier path. As you continue down your path please never question your personal choices and plans.


Eileen is a Project Social Ambassador and blogger for The NVLD Project. She loves helping others understand they can achieve their goals and dreams through hard work and dedication.

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