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Challenge: Kids with Special Needs

Dear IEP Mom,

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Dear IEP Mom,

It’s that season again.

IEP season, that is. It’s the time of year when sleepless nights and anxiety-filled days all lead up to one single meeting that will determine the course of the next full year of your child’s school career. That time when you sit alone at a table of teachers, therapists, and psychologists who all think they know your child’s needs better than you do, while you fight to prove otherwise. A time when you struggle to maintain your composure while simultaneously jumping through hoops to make sure your child’s educational requirements will be adequately met.

I want you to know that you are not alone. That I am there, sitting right next to you. I feel your frustration when it seems that no one at that table can hear you. I too wonder why I can see them listening, but how they are not really hearing me. I am also fighting back the tears as they list my child’s challenges but seem to want to provide little in the way of support—this phenomenon perplexes me as well. I am your inner voice telling you to remain calm, reminding you that being strong and assertive does not mean having to yell. My palms are sweating too, and my heart is also pounding—the constant drumbeat of, “Am I doing and saying enough?” is racing through my mind too.

I am here to tell you that you are doing enough. You need to know that you are a superstar, a fighter in a way many parents can’t understand. I want you to shrug off the belittling comments that you may hear from others—turn a deaf ear when someone says, “What’s the big deal, it’s just a meeting?”

It is a big deal; it’s not just a meeting, and unless you are going through it, you absolutely cannot understand the depth of its importance. I too feel misunderstood sometimes, that many mommy friends just don’t understand my struggle. I also feel alone and exhausted from trying to explain it.

Do you know how strong you are? That you are your child’s single most important advocate, teacher, therapist, and psychologist? That you wear many different hats every day just to make sure your child gets from the morning to the night successfully. I know that, whether the teachers across the table from you see it or not. You have the strength of 10,000 women! You alone sit at this meeting to make sure that your child receives the educational support he or she needs—the support that he is legally entitled to which will allow him to successfully navigate the least restrictive educational environment. I jump for joy right along with you when he thrives and hold him in comfort, crumbling silently inside, when he fails. That’s right, IEP Mom, you are a rock, a warrior, and a hero!

I am right there fighting alongside of you. We all are! So, IEP Mom, go into that meeting with your head held high, your paperwork prepared, and your arguments rehearsed, as this is just another battle in the war that is your child’s education. However, this time, know that every mom in a similar room, in a similar school, just a town, state, or country away is right there fighting along side of you day in and day out.

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