The mom who’s made every one laugh with her viral video about Target back-to-school shopping is back. Only this time she’s crying. Real tears.
In a Facebook live video posted Monday morning, Dena Blizzard sits in her car looking exhausted and emotionally spent. She’s in a CVS parking lot after an IEP meeting with her 8th-grade daughter’s teachers and case manager.
IEP stands for “Individualized Education Program,” and its required in most public schools for students to receive special services.
IEPs are common for students dealing with a variety of challenges — including anxiety, ADHD, Asperger’s, autism and Down Syndrome — challenges that can hinder their ability to learn like their peers.
In Blizzard’s case, her daughter struggles with written exams. Her child has anxiety, ADD, and learning issues, she said.
What happened in the meeting
Blizzard apparently asked in the meeting if her daughter could be tested via different methods – orally, for example. According to the video, the teachers were supportive — at least one is willing — but noted under the school’s current rules, the results wouldn’t count toward her daughter’s final grade.
And the case manager left the meeting saying that because it’s April and nearing the end of the school year, no changes will be made to the IEP.
Blizzard said she was told by the case manager that her daughter’s team at her high school (the school she’ll attend in the fall) can deal with her learning challenges.
That’s unbelievable to me. And to many others too, apparently.
In six hours, the video has racked up more than 38,000 views on Facebook and nearly 1,800 comments with sympathetic moms and dads offering words of solace and support.
“I just think there are so many people that cry in their cars after IEP meetings because they are so frustrated,” Blizzard says. She adds, “What do you do? What do you do when you have a kid who is intelligent and beautiful and has a mind like no other? And we tell them…you have to fill in these little spaces…or you don’t understand it…”
Later she says of her daughter, “We have spent the better part of six years trying to figure out her beautiful brain.”
Why her video is viral
Blizzard’s video is resonating not because of the challenges she faces at her daughter’s school or this individual case manager.
It’s resonating because it’s so damn relatable.
What parent doesn’t want what’s absolutely best for their child? What parent wouldn’t move heaven and earth to help them succeed? It’s our most basic instinct as moms and dads.
And I’ve heard Blizzard’s frustration, anger and sadness echoed among many of my friends. They vent on social media, in text messages and at lunch about the problems they have navigating their IEPs.
“Her experience is the rule, not the exception,” one friend wrote after I showed her the video.
“She speaks the truth! The system is very hard to navigate and it feels (like) our kids get left behind unless you fight for what they need.”
‘I can see the day coming …’
I don’t have an IEP for my kids. But our pediatrician has already suggested we’ll likely need one for our son, who has ADHD. He’s in first grade and is struggling with written exams that assess his knowledge of phonograms and reading comprehension.
Like Blizzard, we’ve worked directly with our teachers — and she’s right, they’ve each been amazing. They tutor him, they give him the test multiple times, sometimes in different settings, to see where he is best able to concentrate
But I can see the day coming where I am going to be sitting in a car in a CVS parking lot crying because I just want someone to help me do what’s best for my kid.
Of her daughter, Brooke, Blizzard says this:
“I want her to be who she is, and still have a successful career in school. I don’t think it’s OK to tell kids who are different, who learn different, who act different, who see the world different…it’s not OK for them to continue to see failing grades.”
Amen. We have to do better by these kids.
“We’re going to figure this out. I’m not looking for perfect. I’m just looking for her to feel like whatever beautiful brain she was born with is perfect and wonderful and it was given to her so that she can achieve whatever thing she needs to.
“I don’t want her to be like everybody else. I want her to be like she is and still have a successful career in school.”
Blizzard said that she’s been angry, sad and at times, she’s felt helpless. You know there’s a problem and it’s tough when you don’t have anyone to tell you how to fix it. And then when you have some ideas of your own, it’s soul crushing to be told to just leave it alone until next year.
But Blizzard didn’t end her Facebook post without some advice for other parents also facing IEP dead-ends:
“I just want to tell every mom who cries in a parking lot because their daughters or sons are a little different, if your gut tells you that this is what you need to be doing and this is what you need to be saying — then you need to say it. Even if it means then you end up crying in a parking lot.”
At one point in the video Blizzard notes:
“We would have just so many creative, wonderful and gifted leaders if we just take this group of kids who don’t learn the same way as everybody and we teach them and assess them the way that their brain works.”
Like All the Moms?