Dear IEP Team,
Do you have a child or a niece/nephew/ or a grandchild? If so, read this through the eyes of a mom, of a dad, of an aunt or uncle, of a loving grandparent. Please don’t take offense…you won’t if you read it through those eyes.
I walk into a room full of people sitting around a large table, looking at me. I have been provided all of the ‘official’ materials. These materials and papers are full of graphs and paragraphs and lingo that I may or may not understand. They may have been delivered by the USPS to my home. They may have been hand delivered by the child whose educational goals are outlined within the papers. I really hope he did not read them. I really hope he didn’t read about all of the things that are officially ‘wrong’ with him.
This document that I received and read a week ago is full of reminders. I know it’s necessary, but it’s full of reminders. Reminders about how far from ‘normal’ we are, reminders of how far we have to go, anecdotal and judgmental evidence from people who spend one hour with my child a day. One hour.
That is the only information I have for how you regard my child. Paper. Graphs. Charts. Goals. Assessment Strategies. Anecdotal Reflections. Assessment Results. Paper.
He’s been my heart for 12 years. He makes me laugh like no one else. His sparkling eyes open my heart. His laugh sounds like a thousand angels. His hugs feel never-ending. His voice…ahhh…his sweet voice. I love him so much it hurts. Literally, taking my breath away. I would lay down on a train track for his life. I wouldn’t even think twice – but he would. He wouldn’t let me. He would push me out of the way. Because that’s how he loves.
That is the bond we have.
I am here for him. Laying down my life.
He is so much more than paper.
Please don’t talk about him as a subject or a thing. He is a boy.
Please don’t refer to his issues as simply being ‘behavioral’ – he is not naughty. This stuff is real. Trust me – I’ve made it through 12 years of real.
Please don’t assume that I won’t acknowledge that he can be difficult. Trust me – I’ve made it through 12 years of difficult parenting.
Please don’t talk over me. Trust me – that will only irritate me and *may* make me irrational. When it comes to my child – I have 12 years of knowing him.
Please don’t treat me like an imbecile if I ask a question. Trust me – I will continue to ask. You treating me like I don’t know anything will only make me go ‘smart-girl big-word’ on you. If I walk in with my glasses on, you’ve already headed down this path. Beware.
Please ask me if I have questions, and often – I may not have the courage to speak up. Trust me – it may take me time to process what you are telling me. Give me a chance.
Please, please say nice things about my child. Trust me – I NEED to hear them…boy do I need to hear them.
Please don’t expect things from him that you wouldn’t expect from another child. Trust me – I expect him to be as much like the ‘general’ population as you, but do ALL children close their lockers EVERY time?
Please listen to my stories. Trust me – I need to tell you how I see my child.
Please find some way to praise him and his progress. Trust me – I am much more agreeable if you stay positive.
Please show hope. Trust me – I need you to have hope because there are moments when I am running out.
Please don’t tell me he no longer qualifies for services because he’s ‘better.’ Trust me – He’s not better, he’s the master of coping. It’s the services that got him to this point. Can’t we keep the services available ‘just in case?’
Please don’t make me sign until I’ve had some time to think it all over. It may take two or three or five meetings to get it right. Trust me – This is my child. This is my child’s future. Wouldn’t you want someone to give you an extra hour?
Please tell me that I can call/email if I have questions. Trust me – if you say it kindly and with meaning, I will.
Please don’t make prescription recommendations, you are not a MD, DO, or ARNP. Trust me – I have already considered these things and talked with appropriate professionals.
Please don’t sigh or hesitate at my suggestions and recommendations. Trust me – I’m trying to help you.
Please don’t talk to others in the room like I am not present. Trust me – This will make me feel like a small part of this process. I am the other third of this process. You are one-third. My child is the most important third.
Please do not suggest further modifications we can do at home without some type of advice or instruction. Trust me – I am not a mind reader and I am reading information about our differing ability all of the time. Help me!
Please do not say anything that begins with, “You need to accept the fact that….” No, no I don’t need to. Trust me – I CAN believe anything I want about the future. If I am let down, then fine – I will be let down, on my time. I DO expect amazing things out of my son. I am a firm believer that people will rise to expectations.
Please tell others in the school about my child. Trust me – I need him to have a community of supporters. (See Day #61 – Community of Understanding).
Please push my child to learn and have high expectations. Trust me – I push him all the time at home. If you have questions on ‘how’ to push him, please ask. I want you to have success. I want him to have success.
Please don’t tell me my child is ‘too smart’ for an IEP. Trust me – I know how bright he is – that is not the issue. He needs help in other, very real ways.
Please be part of our team. Trust me – I can make your job easier.
This is not about me, but I will fight for him.
I am his advocate.
I am his mother.
Not a stronger or fiercer love exists than an advocate mother.
Let’s Do This.