Today I had my son’s IEP. That’s an Individual Educational Plan for those of you who don’t have a life filled with acronyms. I met with his teacher and other specialists to discuss his progress throughout this school year and goals for the upcoming year. Throughout the 5 plus years since my son’s adoption I’ve been to countless meetings, met with over 50 professionals and been given both heartbreaking and heartwarming news. We adopted our son knowing that he had some special needs but really had no idea what the extent of his needs would be and how our lives would be changed because of them. In the world of disabilities his are considered mild but they still affect our lives every day.
Before I became a mom I worked with children with special needs for many years. I thought I knew just about everything there was to know about just about every disability. Boy, was I wrong! The thing I was most wrong about though was not recognizing just how difficult this process can be for parents, especially the moms. We hang on to every kind word, every positive report, every (rare!) admission that we were right. And for all those times that we receive bad news, that the diagnosis has changed, that the chance for improvement is slight, a little piece of us curls up and cries.
Before the meeting today I ran into another teacher at my son’s school. Her daughter, who I had the privilege of teaching many years ago, graduated from high school yesterday. She has Down syndrome and she wants to be involved in the fashion industry. It was so wonderful to see pictures of this beautiful young lady who I remembered as a toddler in her graduation cap and gown. I felt so much empathy for her mom, realizing all of the struggles and therapies and stress that she has gone through all of these years. As moms it’s important for us to reach out and support the other moms around us, whether they’re parenting a child with special needs or “just” parenting. Celebrate the victories together and be there when we need a shoulder to cry on.
Every mom is special by virtue of being a mom. Moms of kids with special needs are special with a cherry on top! Let’s be there for each other.