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To the Teacher of My Child With Special Needs on the Last Day of School

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I remember the first time we met a year ago. I was anxiously awaiting our first IEP meeting, and you looked weary. I’m not sure if you were weary because you were finishing up yet another school year or because you were assigned to my child, who has a complicated medical history and an IEP due to low vision, executive functioning disorder, tube feedings and a learning disability.

Allison Stulpin's daughter
Allison Stulpin’s daughter.

I wondered if you were thinking, “Why me?” or “Not again!” I remember you smiled in my direction that day, and for a split second, I felt like this might be OK. Eventually, it was.

Throughout the school year, you remained steady, kind and gracious when I was a frazzled mess. You were always quick to answer late-night emails about my latest concern or spend an extra hour at parent-teacher conferences when I’m sure you had better things to do.

You never complained when I called to set up yet another IEP meeting to discuss my child’s goals and my concerns about her lack of progress. You shared joy with me over made up stories and silly pictures. You shared pride with me over writing milestones and improved sight word memorization. You set a timer so my child would remember to go to the bathroom.

Sure, there were days where our communication fell apart, assumptions were made and misunderstandings took place, but no matter how off course we got, you never wavered from my child.

How do I say thank you without falling short? What words could I say that would make all of your extra effort seem like it was worth it? Maybe there just aren’t adequate words to express my gratitude for all of your hard work this year.

I’ll be honest: I want to give you a hug, but I’m not a hugger so that won’t work. I want to tell you face to face, but I’m a crier so that won’t work, either. I guess I’m just going to have to write it all down and hope that’s enough. I hope this one “thank you” will get you through another year of teaching because I’m certain this is your calling and the children you teach will remember you long after they have children of their own.

So as another school year ends and we part ways, please know I see you and I appreciate you. I see the extra effort, the weary but kind smile and the joy and the frustration. I appreciate the extra time, the multiple emails and the thorough explanations. I know I wasn’t always an easy parent to manage, but you still mustered up the grace and kindness needed to see my child through her first year of school and for that I will be forever grateful.

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 18, 2016
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