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An Open Letter to All Special Education Professionals

Nov 13 2014
Nicole Black

An Open Letter To All Special Education Professionals,

As a parent of a child with special needs, I need to start off this letter by saying: I could not do this without you. Can I also say that after my family and my closest friends and my child’s crew of doctors, you are my saving grace? I owe you a world of gratitude and a lifetime of thank you’s. You have the most important job ever. You are educating my child. Helping my child. And not just any child…my special needs child.

You have the expertise, the training, the heart. You wear the “big picture” glasses and can see my child’s potential, and you’re going to help her thrive. No matter what. And I love you for that. My child loves you for that.

You are invaluable to me and to my family. I really need you to know that. Because in the day to day craziness that is a special needs mom’s life, sometimes I forget to say it. When I’m late to pick up because of a mini-crisis, I forget to thank you. When I read your detailed emails about what you worked on with them but I don’t respond for days, I forget to thank you. When you send home those adorable clay handprints for Mother’s Day, I forget to thank you. But I do appreciate it all. Even if I don’t remember to say the words.

And I know your job isn’t easy. The long hours and little pay. The mounds of paperwork done on your personal time. The classroom supplies you purchase out of your own pocket. The hours spent creating lessons that meet the standards and the IEP goals of every child in the room. The hands-on unit study you designed about earthworms that actually got my child to not just be in the same room with a worm, but to actually hold a worm.  It doesn’t go unnoticed by us parents.

I know you are not just teaching them. You are guiding them. Shaping their minds. Building their character. Showing them that school is a place to love and a place to be loved. Under your direction they will learn how to be their best selves.  Because of you they will become our next generation of great thinkers, solvers, creators and doers.

And since you are in special education, your job description doesn’t stop there. You’re dealing with my kid’s meltdowns because the room was too cold. You’re changing diapers. You’re wiping drool and giving hugs for hurt feelings. And you’re doing them all at the same time. You are like an octopus, constantly and gracefully moving in all directions, helping everyone within your eight arms’ reach. I truly am in awe of you.

But since it’s my kid with the meltdowns and hurt feelings, there are a few things I want you to remember.  Since this child is my everything, I am trusting you with everything.  Since this child is my world, I am trusting you with the world.

Your time with them is my time away from them. A little piece of me breaks as they walk or roll away from me every morning. And yet, part of me rejoices that they’re being more independent as they walk or roll towards you.

I’m counting on you to fill in for me. You have to safeguard them. Protect them. Defend them. Special needs kids are more likely to not be understood. More easily ignored and unheard. More vulnerable to playground bullies.

Be their protector. Be their interpreter. Be their voice. 

Let the world know that they are more than their diagnosis. They are more than their IEP goals and list of modifications. More than their limits and dis-abilities. They are people, with emotions, likes and dislikes. And they can hear you.

Remind your colleagues to get to know them. The real them. Teach other kids to be kind and loving towards them. Not because they have special needs and need more kindness and love. But because they are people. And all people need more kindness and love.

And that includes their special education teachers and therapists.

I try to show my gratitude to you by voting for more education spending on Election Day. By making sure I return all the forms on time, by reviewing the stacks of classwork sent home and by volunteering at school.

But I know it’s not nearly enough. At the end of the day, I know that the best way to show you is to tell you. And some things need to be shouted for the whole world to hear.

So this is me, officially telling you “thank you.” As loudly as I can. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are amazing for choosing this profession. You are even more amazing for staying in this profession. I can never repay you for your service to this community, for your service to this family, or for your service to my child. I will forever be in your debt.

We will all be forever in your debt.

Love,

Your Kids’ Parents 

 

Nicole Black is a credentialed elementary school teacher, tutor and substitute teacher. She is raising her 3 awesome kids, volunteering in their classrooms and is just trying to make it to bedtime. Her hobbies include: attending IEP Meetings, sleeping in and searching Pinterest for inspiring recipes that she may or may not ever make. Oh. And she also likes to write.