Dear IEP Mom: It's That Season Again, But You're Not Alone

by Laura Russin
A teacher in a yellow sweater, black skirt, and black shoes with open arms talking to children seate...
gradyreese / iStock

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 30- to 45-minute 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 how they are not really hearing me even though I can see them listening. Like you, I am fighting back the tears as they list my child’s challenges but offer 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 also are sweating, and my heart is pounding. The constant refrain of “Am I doing and saying enough?” is beating 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 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 of my mom 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 men!

You alone sit at this meeting to make sure your child receives the educational support they need — the support that they are legally entitled to and will allow them to successfully navigate the least restrictive educational environment. I jump for joy right along with you when your child thrives and crumble silently inside when they fail. 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 I am in a similar room, in a similar school, just a town, state, or country away.