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When You Feel Like an Insignificant Mother at an IEP Meeting

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It started before the meeting even began. Emails, phone calls and discussions between all of you to synchronize diaries and finalize a time and location that suited everyone. Everyone, of course, except the insignificant mother. My diary was never checked. No one asked if the time suited me or if the location was convenient. As long as the “professionals” are fine with it, that’s all that matters apparently.

You all had weeks of notice. I received the letter in the mail just days before. You all knew the agenda. I didn’t.

So here we are at the table. I notice you’re all smartly dressed. Folders and pens are at hand and reports have been prepared, while I sit there in yesterday’s clothes trying to remember if I got around to brushing my teeth this morning or not.

Introduction are done and apologies are made, but a few chairs still lie empty. It seems some of you haven’t turned up — again. I realize every person in the room is paid to be there except me. This is everyday stuff to you. Meetings are your norm. Not for me. I’m not sure what you think I do all day or even what you think of me at all.

What I do know is that none of you feel I’m important enough to be given a title. The sign-in sheet asked me to list my profession, and just as I was about to write “parent,” one of you said, “You can just leave that bit blank.”

You all get your turn at discussing my child like you know him so well. I want to scream when you don’t even say his name right or know his age. I’m told to wait my turn. Each person talks about my child like he’s a number. He’s just one student on your case load — a child you’ll soon move on from, either by discharging or if he moves on to another class. I guess I’m at least thankful you made the effort to come. Sadly, some of your colleagues never even gave my son that honor.

I wonder if I’ll ever get to speak. I have no prepared report to give you or targets I have achieved. He made it to school today. Does that count? He even had breakfast. Surely that gives me bonus points.

“Mom, do you have anything to add?” So you actually noticed I was there after all! I have lots I could say, but does it really matter? If I disagree with anything that was said, it gets recorded as “not engaging with professionals.” If I talk about life at home, I’m reminded “we must stick to the points in question.” If I ask to be reminded of something that was discussed, I’m told “we have covered that point, and you’ll be able to read it in the minutes.”

What do you actually want me to say? What you really want is for me to tell you how wonderful you are and how grateful I am for your input. You want me to pat you on the back and boost your ego and bow down to your authority. You all hold the power in these things, and I’m just the insignificant mom.

The meeting closes. You all return to your cozy offices, your clinic appointments and your computers. I return home to the nonverbal, screaming child. I return home to the little girl refusing to eat.

You can tick your box to say you had your meeting. You can record who attended and who didn’t. Please do send me the minutes to file away with the large pile of reports and fact sheets I have already. One day, I may get around to reading them. Right now, I have a diary full of hospital appointments and two children who need a huge amount of support. You may like to record at your next meeting that the person providing all this support day and night — unpaid and out of love — is the insignificant mother.

Insignificant to professionals maybe, but hugely significant and loved by the two people who count the most.

Follow this journey on Faithmummy.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing you want to make sure the special needs mom in your life knows? *If you are the special needs mom, challenge a loved one to respond to this! If you’d like to participate, please check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: May 27, 2016
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