I.E.P. The Training Ground for Life Part 1

Learning, i.e.p.

Every spring since 1994, for 12 + years I would sit down in an Individual Education Planning Meeting, better known as an I.E.P. Meeting. There were a variety of experts around the table whose job was to put together a plan to give my special needs son Brandon the best opportunity to succeed.

There was hope, but these meetings really caused emotional pain due to the intense focus on Brandon’s deficiencies. His strengths were given little or no attention. It was a constant sticking point. This emphasis caused me to relive Brandon’s diagnosis over and over and over. This atmosphere created underlying tension between me reliving the pain of his diagnosis with me wanting to change the entire process. The explosion would come.

In 1991, at 2 years old Brandon was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum Disorder. This event was and still is one of the biggest forever changes that I experienced. A forever change is an event that has happened to you or around you that changes the trajectory of your life, forever. It causes emotional pain, loss, and instability. It fractures the vision of yourself and future. Brandon’s official diagnosis fractured my vision, causing a cascade of layered losses resulting in deep grief. The loss of a “normal” son, the loss of my dreams and hopes, the loss of many relationships, the loss of finances, the loss of self, and many more. I did not know that this was normal. Little did I know that at times this was a re-occuring forever change, forever.

I tried to work through my grief while providing help for my son. When Brandon began Kindergarten I was in unknown territory. I felt adrift and unsure. I unconsciously used the I.E.P. meeting as a place that I could feel anchored and secure. I looked towards the professionals for their expertise and knowledge. I figured they new Brandon better than I did. At that moment I literally gave my power away.

Anxiety, worry, and frustration built up along with simmering anger. All symptoms that underlying grief was present and getting in the way. The I.E.P. meeting fed the stress and tension. My frustration and anger grew as I became fed up with myself and the I.E.P process. One day that anger boiled over. Although it caused an ugly scene something interesting happened out of it. I had 2 huge “aha moments.” I realized that my grief was getting in the way and that I was also the expert. I was the Brandon expert, better known as Mom. Anger helped me change my perspective. I became the expert at the very table that all the experts sat and I saw myself as an equal player.

As a professional life-coach I help individuals understand that anger can be healthy. Getting angry and using that anger short term can help you and propel you to make serious changes. Not only did the anger help me to show up and be seen, I used it to push myself to deal with my deeper unresolved emotional grief. I became empowered and I change the focus of The I.E.P. meeting. It became the training ground for my self empowerment, grief resolution and true advocate for my son.

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About Sharon Roth-Lichtenfeld

Sharon Roth-Lichtenfeld an ICF Certified Professional Life Coach bringing many years of expert professional experience along with many years of personal knowledge and understanding of loss, grief and forever changes. She is the Co-Creator of Afterwards and the signature Afterwards Program. Afterwards is the next step and is the critical link from being supported through therapy and support groups to actually gaining the ability to flourish after the first year of a major life transition. To learn more visit www.afterwardsprogram.com

One thought on “I.E.P. The Training Ground for Life Part 1

  1. pspaulasusan

    Your extraordinary piece was written from the vulnerable place of a mother’s deep love and pain. It is so intimate and moving. I feel speechless and grateful to you for exposing your journey so eloquently. I pray for your heart and that you hold on to and respect your own wisdom.


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