An Apology From Your Child’s Former Teacher

Dear Parents of Special-Needs Children I’ve Taught In the Past,

I need to make a big apology.  You see, I’ve been teaching now for fourteen years, but I have only just recently joined your ranks.

I didn’t know.  Not even a clue.  I thought, mistakenly, that having two special-needs children in my family made me more sensitive to your needs as a parent.  It didn’t.  And I’m so sorry for operating under the assumption that it did.  I’m not attempting verbal self-flagellation here.  I meant well.  I knew a lot about autism and some about other special-needs conditions.  I did care about your child.  And I did want to do right by him.  But, like a lot of teachers who Just Don’t Get It, I thought doing right by him meant giving him extra time on assignments and not allowing him to fail my class.  I thought being extra nice and seating her at the front of the room was what you needed from me.

But you needed more.  And I didn’t understand that.  You needed communication.  A lot of it.  You needed me to understand your depth of worry.  You needed me to understand that, if you’ve met one special-needs child, you’ve met one special-needs child.  You needed me to understand that I was teaching your child, not an I.E.P.  You needed to know, not assume, that I would go out on a limb to make sure your child’s needs were met all over the school and not just in my classroom.  You needed to not worry that, when your back was turned, I was still doing everything that I promised as well as thinking of better ways to meet your child’s needs.  You needed to talk about your child in meetings and not worry about the clock.

I know better now.  In just a few months, I am going to be placing my special little boy into the hands of the public school system.  Because he is non-verbal, I will have no way of literally knowing how his  day went, if he is being treated well, and if those to whom I am entrusting his care really do care about him.  This kind of fear is paralyzing.  And more so because I know just how little training (read almost none) that most of the staff in a public school have in dealing with children like my son.  They, too, will mean well.  But they won’t know.  They won’t get it.  I now know why you carry The Binder of Epic Proportions to every meeting.  Mine is getting bigger by the day.

I look back now at all of your children and wish that I had picked up the phone more, written quick notes home more often, challenged your child more often rather than less, and made you feel certain that someone else loved your baby in your absence.  For that, I’m sorry.  I promise to do better for those kids in the future.  I promise to not assume anything about your child’s unique situation and needs.  I won’t just react to bullying of your very different child.  I will actively be on the lookout for it.  I will remember your child and her possible confusion on activity bell schedule days.  I will take more time each day to get to know her.  I promise to do my best to push, cajole, educate, and even take to task my colleagues who don’t get it in the years to come.  I pray that teacher training will improve in the future and that my son will reap the rewards of that.  And I hope that I am just as patient, kind, and understanding with his teachers and schools as most of you were with us.

And those of you who weren’t?  I get you too.


Your Child’s Former Teacher

455 thoughts on “An Apology From Your Child’s Former Teacher

  1. Christy

    Best. Blog. Ever.
    I was going through Zach’s paperwork this past weekend trying to organize and straighten things out. I have been to 12 IEP meetings (counting FSDB) and he’s only in the 4th grade. There is a reason that the few days before and the few days after are horribly depressing. It’s one thing to live the IEP every second of every day with your child, but it’s an entirely different animal to see your child “on paper” compared to all the “normal” kids. IEP days are the most depressing days for parents. I love you, girl, and you nailed this. Great job!

    1. Sandra

      I agree, I get sick to my stomach before and after an IEP meeting….mostly before. Love this letter….and it made me choke up

    2. Myra Jones

      IEP’s are scarry!!! I have a quick question to the group. How do you have your IEP binders sectioned? Notes..Dr. Evaluations…School evaluations…???

      1. Melanie

        I just place the entire iep in my binder most recent on top. And anything else from the school or drs offices or regional center goes right after the iep with the most recently recieved on top and it saves having to look through it all if it is chronological for the one you need. Between kindergarten and first grade they somehow “lost” the fact that my child is autistic and had him down by only his secondary disabilities of mild mental retardation and non verbal. And we had to show all of hjs ieps and ifps before they would change it back and have the schools psychologist reevaluate him. We are working on 1.5″ binder number two with my 9 year old.
        Another parent uses binders by year and each year has a new binder and seperates them by iep, school, drs, regional center, babysitter/home.
        Another has seperate binders for different places (iep/school, drs/therapists, regional center, babysitters/home) and places items in with the most recent on top.
        The home section has personal notes, triumphs and successful recipes and other important information and also has behavior logs and other important information so that she can look at it and be encouraged by her childs accomplishments however minor they may seem to those who have not ever dealt with their own special needs child.

      2. Erin

        Yes, they are! I had big IEP things every year when I was going through school, and I hated them! It was totally embarrassing to get called out of class for them, and even worse when the stupid tester wouldn’t listen to me when I told her I needed to be in chemistry class instead of getting my IQ tested. I was never a person–just one more thing that needed to be done before the examiner could go home for the day. Then there was the fear–what was wrong, what was right, what if I did something too quickly, what if I didn’t do it quickly enough, what is I got a definition wrong. I don’t think anybody actually bothered explaining the point of an IEP to me until high school. Of course, by then it doesn’t really matter because you’re almost done and you’ve already been marked as “that retarded kid.”

    3. Laura

      Christy, my son is now 15 years old. We had 9 IEP meetings in first grade alone. He still will not speak to that teacher, and she goes to our church and her son is the same age. I don’t blame him.

      Keep fighting. Andrew has both Asperger’s Syndrome and the accompanying social skills deficits, executive function disorder and sensory integration disfunction combined with an IQ of 180. Honestly, “Gifted” and “Advanced Placement” and “Honors” teachers think they are above IEPs. I call it “The Magical Gifted Door” where children walk through and magically they are no longer disabled.

      I have told many teachers that I have lots of friends who would love to walk their non-verbal child through so that he/she could say mama. I told them that if they have to accomodate a child in a wheelchair or a deaf or blind child, they also have to accomodate my son.

      The teacher who get it are AMAZING – I cannot say enough or pray for them enough every day. The others can just stuff it. He is going to do just fine in spite of them. But don’t meet me in a dark alley ;).

      1. Denise Hadden Brandenburg

        OH LAURA am soooooooooooooo there and have been there with my 2 older boys who can’t write but can knock it out of the woods on tests and talking to you. I am having trouble with a particular math teacher this year whose son was also highly gifted with LD’s. So I guess she thinks they are all like her son.

      2. Christy

        Thank you, Laura :) You’re right, the teachers that “get it” are amazing and we are so very blessed to be at the school we are now and Zach is getting the attention and education that he now needs :) But we ALL need to “stick together” and support each other, so your kind words and encouragement are greatly appreciated!!! God Bless You for your support of someone you’ve never even met :) I am truly blessed enough to call Leigh (the blogger behind all of this) a very, very dear friend and an amazing person and mom…..I am looking forward to where all this leads us to :)

      3. Alaina F

        My daughter Ro is 13 and she has been classified, declassified, re-classified, de-classified and now has a 504 in place only, in a mainstream setting.

        It’s very difficult to get teachers, counselors and peers to understand something that is not easy to see or define. If my child were in a wheelchair or was deaf her obstacles would be clear for all to see and she would get much more understanding and consideration. Because she is an honor roll student who has no problems grasping the material teachers in the past have gotten frustrated by the fact that at times she is set off and begins to display what is often perceived as negative or poor behavior. It is frustrating all around. For the teacher who does not know how to handle the situation. To the child who knows no other way to express themselves and to the parent who has to send their child out into a harsh environment and cannot be there to control the situation or modify the setting.

        It was very difficult to get a conclusive diagnosis for Asperger’s. We received two diagnosis’ first; ADD and ADHD and was told our daughter needed medication to manage her impulse control. Her teacher’s thought she had emotional problems and the doctor’s just would not listen. I finally found her an excellent specialist to take the time to study her history and do a comprehensive evaluation Ro. She is currently enrolled in a social skills group with an excellent counselor and I have seen a real difference in her behavior and more importantly her self image. She knows now truly that she is not alone. Aspie’s are visual learners and although she had read much about Asperger’s and understands the principals, it was not until she met others with the same struggles that she truly came to accept her differences and even embrace the positive qualities of be an Aspie.

        All I can say is you need to focus on the upside to having a child with special needs because in my opinion they can receive a better education than ‘normal’ children simply through the fact that they are treated as individuals. Be your child’s advocate and always help them to challenge themselves. It might be your instinct to protect them but do not handicap them in the world any further by shielding them from reality. The world will not always accept or adapt to them as the minority. We need to prepare them to accept their strengths and weaknesses and adapt themselves to society. It won’t matter how high a child’s IQ is if they grow up to be depressed adults, with hang up and phobias and no social skills. No one will care what their capacity for learning is (IQ) if they don’t possess the skills to apply it.

        Good luck and Happy New Year.

      4. Desiree'

        I can so relate to you Laura. I have a son who has Asperger’s Syndrome along with the social deficits and sensory issues. My son will be 21 in May of next year. He struggled so much in school until he got into junior high and high school. From 6th grade until graduation he has the most awesome teachers ever. He now works as a courtesy clerk at Krogers, and loves his job. He has his own circle of friends who are also special needs. As a young adult he is doing well, and I am sure that these teachers had a lot to do with that. Fortunately for my son they did get it. I will be graduating in April and will be getting my teacher certification in Texas. I want to teach a LIFE class in special education. I work as a para-educator now. I can’t wait to have my own classroom.

      1. B Polacek

        Oh, you will be into this sooner or later. Life has a way of taking over all your plans and handing you something you’ve never dealt with before. No one is immune to the unexpected, or to the hardships of life. Your arrogance will not be an asset when those times enter your life – and they will, believe me, they will.

    4. Carol

      “It’s one thing to live the IEP every second of every day with your child, but it’s an entirely different animal to see your child “on paper” compared to all the “normal” kids.”

      You took the words right out of my mouth. The first time they slid the initial report of findings after four weeks of testing across the table to me, I thought I was going to have to excuse myself from the room. Reading these kinds of sterile, clinical comments about your kid is heart-wrenching. You just want to stand on the table and yell, “But what about his wonderful sense of humor and the way he skips out to recess and the way he can make people laugh by doing impressions?” It’s so hard to hear all the negative, but I guess I should be thankful that we know what to work on.

      1. Kellie

        I had to excuse myself from the room at the first IEP meeting I went to. There were 12 people in the room. OT, speech, counselor, principal, teacher, sped teacher, psychologist, etc. I felt like everyone was ganging up on my son. The IEPs still haven’t gotten any easier and it has been going on for 5 years now. I have learned to find my voice and be my son’s advocate.

    5. stephenwv

      Some are purseing vouchers for private school choice for Autistic children. Such a school could be started if the voucher program existed and there was enough demand in an area.

    6. Matthew Craven

      I just have to say that Zach is an awesome name for an autistic kid. Mine is 7 in the 2nd grade.

    1. Patti

      My son turned 36 yrs old yesterday…Matt has limited verbal skills and a severe seizure disorder.
      I lived through so many IEP meetings that were unrealistic to say the least…The one that was always on the list… Writing between the lines..Matt was never going to write between the lines ..I finally asked why does he need to write between the lines: Answer to be able to sign a check ….Are you kidding me!
      You are telling me my child has an IQ of a 3 yr old and he’s going to be writing a check……All I can say is please don’t be unrealistic…..Matt is a very happy 36 yr old….Our family has learned alot through him and with him…..Always ,Always, fight for your childs needs we are our childs voices they depend on us.
      Don’t let IEP’s be intimidating…..Good Luck!

  2. Christina Adams

    Terrific post. All ASD parents have fantasized about hearing this from teachers, although none of us would ever wish autism on a child or family in real life. While I am so sorry that this is part of your lives now, I can tell from your sensitive and intelligent writing and outlook that you will be a triumphant mother raising a successful child. All the best! And don’t forget diet :-).

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thank you, Christina! Diet can be a powerful thing. (Callum has a DAN doctor as well as the typical host of specialists. We were blessed to get him in with Dr. Jeff Bradstreet before he even turned two. With three ASDs in the family, we are big believers in trying it ALL.) Thanks for the encouragement from someone who knows and for taking the time to read my post. Please stop by again. :)

      1. dadofthree

        My now 16 yr old son has seen Dr. B since he was 3. I can’t say it has been the least costly option since we live in Michigan, but did feel he was worth it and far better than our local DAN masquerader. I accompanied him to Kiev last month as part of the autism treatment group and would not have done it with anyone else. Good luck

          1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

            Alison, it didn’t. We no longer use DAN. My views have changed on the subject. While I think it is almost certain that environment plays some role in autism, I think it happens very early and changes the formation of the brain. I think it is permanent, but that every child to some degree can learn and that all children with autism-related deficits be given the opportunity and therapy to overcome them. Some do. Some don’t. But I believe that the answers lie in each individual autistic child’s brain.

  3. Richard S. Stripp, Sr.

    After nearly a decade of working in schools that service special needs children and witnessing far too many cases of bullying, abuse and neglect at the hands of staff, I wrote the book, “Mommy, I Wish I Could Tell You What They Did To Me In School Today”. The public must be made aware of what can and does happen to these innocent children. More must be done to protect them.
    As the teacher above points out, far too many teachers just don’t get it. Not “getting it” leads to poor teaching, neglect, bullying and abuse; both physical and emotional. Proper training of school staff is needed. Until that happens, these children will continue to suffer. Hopefully, one day, there will be no need for a book like mine.

    1. Ann

      I agree! I am a teacher and a parent of a child with ASD. I have seen my own staff not treat my son correctly, and I was a teacher at the same school. Several times they triggered my son into meltdowns. They just didn’t know how to deal with situations. I feel all teachers need more training in the area of ASDs. I move my son to a school that has a unit for high functioning Autistic students. He is doing well and the teacher is highly trained!

      Ann from Alabama

    2. Dr. Nora Baladerian

      I am a psychologist, and about 38 years ago started working/specializing in helping and treating kids and adults who had been abused. I’m sorry to say that although there has been some slight improvement in the prevalence and incidence, and some improvement in reporting, there is little improvement in response by law enforcment. Often parents do not see the signs of abuse that are displayed through emotional outbursts, withdrawal or behavioral changes…and sometimes no change at all. At our project, the Disability and Abuse Project, we provide training materials and trainings to law enforcement, victims advocates, parents, and other groups to help reduce the risk of abuse and improve reporting and response. come visit us at thank you for writing your book.

  4. Ummaryam86

    i really like this post…..I think this is how many educators feel….educators who actually care about educating :-)

  5. Nicky Lalonde-Dumond

    Dear Leigh,

    I cried while reading your a;plogy. I have had and still have and will always have that paralyzing fear each and everyday that I send my son to scholl. Dealing with his school principal and teacher has unfortunatly made me wish for something to happen to their children. Not getting is simply not an excutse for their actions. I am and will always be his advocate and with that title along with Mother, therapist, friend.. and everything else that we are for our children thae last thing that matters to me now is being liked by anyone who has direct contact with him. Being in their good book will not help them “get it” I commend you for posting this apology as I wish so many would, or perhaps wont until they “get it” but what will it take for that to happen. Thank you for giving me hope that things may change.

  6. Ilene

    Thank you for writing this post. My twin ASD children will be starting kindergarten in September and the thought of the world we are about to enter is paralyzing. And I’m one of the lucky ones. Both of my kids are verbal, even though not always reliably. Each stage of our journey has seen less and less communication with staff and I’ve been forewarned to expect this trend to continue. I’m a VERY active parent and really wish that many members of staff knew how important it was for parents to hear details of what is going on, not just in the once or twice yearly conferences and/or IEP Meetings.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thank you for your kind words. It can be scary putting oneself “out there” into the blogosphere. Comments like this keep me encouraged. Thanks again for stopping by, and I hope you’ll visit again. :)

  7. kat

    Tears of joy and tears of sadness! I want to print this and give it to my sons teacher. Would that be rude? I need to hear this from her! I need to know that her love for him is unwavering even in times of turmoil! He cannot tell me what is wrong or who did it and it will always be the teachers words against anything having to do with him… so I never really know what is going on. I know my boy and know that sometimes things don’t add up. We are struggling a lot right now as he is regressing a bit and I just hope and pray that she still loves him like she says she does! Thank you for writing this!

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      The ups and downs emotionally of regression are pure torture, aren’t they? We have experienced some of these ourselves over the past few weeks. It has been an emotional enough experience that I have a post in progress tentatively titled, “Can I Get Some Psychiatric Dramamine Here, Please?” I sure hope your baby’s ups kick right back in again soon. Thanks so much for taking the time to read my post and share your experience. It is so important to feel not alone. Please stop by again. :)

    2. lorraine davis

      hi i,am lorraine with a 10 yr old son called jack i relate to your letter as this is exactly how it was for jack unfortunately this resulted in him having a breakdown and becoming school phobic.after numerous and tedious schools offered and seen not suiable too long out of school i now homeschool hard for me but the best thing for him no suppot days of not doing well feeling not doing enough but he is much happier been nurtured at home.He has issues but i am thee for him and i just feel school cannot meet his needs,please act fast on finding right schools etc help because once they lose faith and are misunderstood theres no going back feel free to get in touch e mail or faceboook lorraine davis take care xx

  8. Katie

    This is such a nice post to read (as a parent with ‘a binder of epic proportions’) – it is hard, my son can’t tell me fully about his school day either. He can’t tell me when he is being bullied, that he’s getting upset about the lunchtime schedule, or any other little thing. Not because he can’t talk, he is verbal, but he cannot effectively communicate. This is highlighted when other thoughtful children come to me to tell me what someone said to my son at school that day, and my son cannot even repeat a two word insult correctly to me when asked directly about it. It turned out almost the whole class were joining in with this teasing and it had been going on a while. A proactive teacher ACTIVELY looking out for him would have seen this before it snowballed.

    I hope your son gets off to a good start at his new school. x

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thank you so much for sharing about your son. I know a child very much like yours who is also verbal (and very high-fuctioning) but who has trouble explaining the nuances of social difficulty and bullying. It’s one of those things that has to be seen to understand and you do have to really look. (I worry about him so much when he moves up to high school – though I have a contact in place to be his champion there.) Best wishes to you and your son. And thanks for reading. Please stop by again.

  9. Karen

    This is a terrific blog post – thank so much for opening up and sharing! But I must tell you that some of the worst educators have the most training, and some of the best educators have no training in disabilities but do have an infectious creativity and positive attitude. My child has experienced this firsthand. It takes a village to raise a typical child, but you need an army to raise a child with special needs.

    BTW, you may want to look at the Friendship Circle blog for ideas about helping your child or reaching out to your students. The Friendship Circle is an international non-profit organization that provides support and recreational programs for families of children with special needs.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      I will definitely check this out and post it in my soon-to-be Autism Links that I am really amiss in not working on.

      You are certainly correct in training not always being the determining factor. Temple Grandin herself pointed out that she truly believed that the non-trained non-experts that worked with her so diligently in the 50s were every bit as effective as university trained therapists today. Heart and desire will always take one further than a college degree!

      Thanks again for stopping by and commenting. I hope to see you again. :)

      1. Ann

        I’d guess that the non-trained non-experts were being mentored and apprenticed by Temple Grandin and so they were trained, just not by a university. I wonder if, for special needs children in particular, that apprenticeships are not more effective as a means of training teachers than the system in place currently.

        Just a thought.

  10. Deborah

    I too have a child with ASD. He’s 14 now and thanks to God he’s in the best school in Pennsylvania and third best in the country for autism. This is his 8th year there and the progress he’s made is nothing short of a miracle. Needless to say this is NOT a public school. I am so grateful we have been able to avoid the horror stories known as public education.
    I am sure there are very good teachers (and you sound like one) in the public school setting, however there are enough bad ones to make public education the very LAST resort when it comes to educating my son.

    We have been blessed with his school, the staff and the families. Never would I give up this placement.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      I SO wish we had that option here. Our daughter is in private school, but they do not provide services for special-needs children. Right now, I am considering getting a therapy degree so that I may become more relocatable. My husband is in school full-time, so right now we have to sit tight. But I also think that there are better options out there for our son. I hope to find one as wonderful as your son’s school. I’m so glad to hear how well he is doing. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Hope to see you again. :)

  11. ylewis

    What a wonderful post! I had thosesame awful fears about lettingmy young one go to developmental preschool. I’m so thankful he is in a safe place with people who really care and do a great job trying every day to understand him better and meet his needs. Parents everywhere need teachers like them and like you, who “get it.”

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thank you! I am fortunate to have an extended family member who handles placement for ESE who is working to make sure we pick the best option for our son. I hope to be as pleased with his school as you are with your son’s. Thanks again for reading and commenting. Hope to see you again! :)

  12. Jo Ashline

    You, my darling, are a freakin ROCK STAR for this post.
    I am so sorry to hear about your own journey with your special needs child and am in awe that in the midst of your chaos you found the insight, wisdom, time and willingness to reach out to our community, that you are now a part of (which is bittersweet, of course). Can we be friends? Seriously? I want to buy you a latte. And a pony.


    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      You, my new friend, just shot to the very top of my favorite comments – and made me tear up. Thank you so very much for that encouragement and kindness. And, yes, we CAN be friends. Please stop by again soon. I’m on facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest as well. If you go by a different name, reference lattes and ponies. I’ll remember you. :)

      1. Christy

        I LOVE you for this, my darling friend….you ARE a ROCK STAR and looks like you have found a therapeutic calling for now!! And to the person who wants to buy her a pony: PLEASE do so, however please let me know in advance because the look on her face will literally be the most priceless ever in the history of mankind… the hours of entertainment of her trying to figure out what to do with it, man, I won’t even need cable TV for a month…..

  13. CindyB

    This is a letter one would love to see from any of our children’s teachers… though preferably in the first few weeks of school and not after several years :-}.

    In today’s era of emails…it still is a STRUGGLE to get some teachers/therapists to respond to even one email. And some obviously read the first sentence and reply without having read the whole note. I ADORE all the teachers and aides who help cheer our children on (3 with sn’s in school currently), AND keep in at least minimal contact, AND who treat the parent as a team member and not a subspecies.

    Great blog post :-).

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thank you, Cindy B. So far, we have had very communicative therapists and wonderful contacts in the school system that give us hope. (And, if that doesn’t work, having a lawyer for a dad will help! LOL) Thanks for taking the time to read and share your thoughts. Making these connections with others who KNOW is invaluable. Please stop by again. :)

      1. Tracy Card

        Let your dad know how many families could really use an attorney’s help. Maybe he knows a bunch of attorneys that would help us help our kids. Start a young lawyers project. Teach young lawyers what IDEA and 504 is all about.

  14. tivah

    I just sent a copy of this to my son’s present and past teachers with a very kind letter explaining how well this letter describes my obvious nervousness the first several months of school each year. I hope they are not offended by it but rather take it in the spirit it was intended…articulating and explaining my very noticeable worries of which they may not be aware.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Oh, my gosh, how wonderul! I hope that it helps them to understand your feelings. As a teacher, I can’t imagine they would take it the wrong way. Best wishes for your child and you. Thanks for taking the time to read and share. I hope to see you again. :)

  15. Polly M.

    We all need to pray for our teachers and the students at our schools. Seems like such a simple little thing, but what a big gesture it can be. We need to pray for wisdom, kindness, patience, and understanding instilled in the staff and kids. If you can give back in any way by volunteering for your child’s school, please do! Teachers need help but so do the students. Your presence will be noted and believe me, your worries will either be realized or put to rest. Hopefully the latter!

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Agreed. It just keeps getting harder to give students the attention they need. It seems everyone wants us paying attention to something else these days. Schools LOVE volunteers and especially love the ones we can count on. Thanks for reading and commenting, Polly. Please stop by again. :)

  16. Mel Thomsett

    I am so grateful you took the time to share this. I know one of the most vulnerable moments of my life was putting my 4 year old non-verbal son in a taxi to take him to a special school – I wasnt allowed to take him to see the taxi ahead of his first day or meet the driver and escort first – No budget for ‘that kind of thing’, and having a six year old who needed to be in school at the same time but in the opposite direction meant there was no choice. It would have been such a small gesture on the part of the budget holder to allow us just those ten minutes of preparation. And while he has some words now, he has nowhere near the ability to be able to express what upsets him, or if people are being kind to him when I’m not there. So, thank you for this warm gesture xx

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      How hard for you. I cannot imagine. I pray that the budget holder never has to make such a wrenching choice. He will be most blessed indeed. Thanks so much for reading and sharing, Mel. I hope to hear from you again. :)

  17. Craig

    It’s a shame it takes a “It happened to me” to get someone to understand what me and my wife have been dealing with since our son entered the school system 13-yrs ago when he was 4. Now 17-years old we have been home schooling him for three years due to bullying, and even a Special Needs teacher telling him in middle-school that he “Will not amount thing anything” and placing him in a private school where he was picked on by all of the “main-stream” kids to to his disability – that was due to his premature birth. He does go to JROTC every morning, and I pick him up when it’s over, then off to my in-laws for a day of school where he doesn’t have to look over his shoulder everyday.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      I would and will, without hesitation, make the same choice as your family should the need arise. I simply refuse to allow my son to suffer what I have seen some kids endure. I’m sorry to hear what your boy has had to go through. Thanks for reading and commenting, Craig. I hope you will visit my blog again. :)

  18. kantal113

    Amazing and beautiful! I will share this with my hubs and with all of facebook. We have a 7 yo with special needs who is also non-verbal. This hit home for me, and I’m sure it will affect my hubs even more. :)

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thank you so much! I am floored by all of the kind words and encouragement I have received from visitors like you. I hope you will stop by my blog again. :)

  19. Laurie

    I hope this becomes the “blog post heard ’round the world”. I just did my part and shared it on FB.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thanks, Laurie! If it does get heard around the world, it will be strange to have it passed out at a faculty meeting, won’t it? lol Thanks for sharing, visiting, and commenting. I hope to see you here again. :)

  20. Laurel

    Excellent posting. Thank you for your honesty about the past & how you will now change things.

    We adopted our special needs child from Russia 7 years ago when she was a 15 pound/27″ TWO YEAR old. She has FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome) along with FTT (failure to thrive), CAS (childhood apraxia of speech), and ADHD (non-typical). She is sweet beyond words, she has almost no short term memory, she still is not completely toilet trained, is crazy about cheetahs, puppies and kittens and loves unconditionally. (except for her brother, also adopted at the same time from Russia–not bio related, 16 months younger and a scholarly whiz. They have a typical sibling love-hate relationship!)

    We have been BLESSED with 3 FANTASTIC general ed teachers and many special ed helping teachers in Gabby’s 5 years at her school. (Gabby is in 3rd grade–repeated kindergarten with the same teacher) I can’t say enough good things or do enough good things for this year’s teacher. She seems to ‘get it’. She emails me often, she pulls me aside to tell me good or bad things that happened during the day. She is an angel.

    I would not trade Gabby for anything except maybe some respite time. I get so weary of advocating, of explaining her actions to others, of doing laundry, of seeing more doctors, of being aware of everything she’s doing so she doesn’t get hurt or hurt others. I love her and always will–she has made me be much more outgoing and helped me to meet some wonderful people in this journey too.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thank you for stopping by, reading, and sharing your and Gabby’s story with me. I’m so pleased that she has such a great teacher this year. I hear that the one my son will be getting is awesome – young and enthusiastic. I hope to be bragging about her come this time next year. Best wishes to you, Gabby, and her brother. I hope you will stop by again. :)

  21. Chris

    Yes! Just like becoming a parent for the first time, non-parents don’t get it, and never will until they become parents. Teachers, for as much training as they may have, will never get what it’s actually like to be a special needs parent unless they have one of their own.

    My little Finn has blessed my life in so many ways. He’s thankfully in a good district, but working with his teacher can be upsetting at times because I feel like she just doesn’t fully get it. And she’s been teaching for many years.

    So thank you. Apology accepted. And thank you again. Beautiful post.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thank you, Chris. And you are right. Some things must be experienced to be known. Not that there aren’t wonderful teachers and special-needs teachers out there. Obviously, so many are. But people who will go above and beyond are rare in any occupation. I hope Finn gets a great one next year who will do just that.

      Thanks again for reading and sharing. I hope to hear from you again. :)

  22. Darci

    Thank you for your post. I enjoyed reading it. I too have been very nervous about our meetings with our sons teacher. I am happy that you see things from the other side now, and are living our life everyday. I mean that in a good way. :) We have very blessed with our sons teachers. He is 4 1/2 and has had good experiences in school so far. Thank you again for sharing.

    1. Darci

      CatHerder~ I didn’t mean that i am “happy” that you live our life. I meant that I am happy that you see things from the other side. And I thank you for sharing your story. I hope you didn’t misunderstand me. :)

  23. dawnm68

    What an awesome post :) My daughter has something most have never heard of: mitochondrial disease. It affects everyone differently, but has left her severely physically and intellectually delayed. At 4 years old she is still learning to walk. I so often worry about her future, and was happy when her teacher from last year’s preschool retired. It seemed like she meant well, but I didn’t feel like she really connected with my daughter. This year has been different, with lots better communication from her new teacher. Good luck with your child! You can check out my blog if you like :)

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thanks, Dawn. I’m so glad your little girl has a great teacher this year. (And, you’re right. I’ve never heard of mitochondrial disease, but I will be googling it in just a moment.) Thanks so much for reading and sharing, and I will be sure to check out your blog as well. I have a list of them that I plan to spend some times perusing tomorrow. I’m SO enjoying connecting to the special-needs world. And I’m sure my non-special-needs friends and family will be grateful I’m redirecting my attention as well! LOL Thanks again. Hope you will stop in again. :)

    2. Tracy Card

      My cousin had mitochondrial disorder. Sadly he contracted H1N1 and passed away 2 years ago. He was 9. I hope that your school provides the supports and services you need. Glad to hear this year’s teacher seems to be better.

  24. andrea m

    You said it. I’ve been feeling this for 10th years with my son. He isn’t artistic, he has ADHD and Auditory Processing Disorder. I want to print this and hand this to his teacher’s. Thank you.

  25. Debby

    Thank you for sharing this. As I update my binders today in anticipation of next week’s IEP meeting – it was very timely.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thanks, Debby! We will be going for our very first IEP in a couple of months. It will be strange to be on the other side of the table…

      Thanks for reading and sharing. Hope to see you again. :)

      1. Tracy Card

        You shouldn’t have to wait for a couple more months for a first IEP meeting. The school has 60 days from date of consent for evaluation to hold that meeting. If there have been no evaluations done by the school then preempt them with your own written request for evaluations to determine ” the education needs of your son related to the effects of his disability”.

  26. Jenn

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write this out and share! It was touching to read this and know that other people understand how it feels to send your child to school and worry and wonder all day. Thank you again!

  27. BeVerbal

    Applauding you for the courage to reveal yourself so openly to the world and for unvailing the truth of so many parents plight for their children.

  28. GinevraCat

    My child is not ASD, but has other challenges that make her difficult in the classroom. Only one school has given me enough feedback that I felt I could trust them. Communication is *such* an important thing – and most teachers do feel that they are doing enough, but you’re right, they don’t get it. I’m teaching my first year next year – I hope I manage this part of it. Good luck with your boy!

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thanks to you. I can tell you that it gets harder and harder each year to find the time to simply be a teacher – what with all the meetings, trainings, data entry, elaborate lesson plans, etc. Communication suffers. Best wishes for you in your first year of teaching, and thanks so much for your kind words. Please stop by again. :)

    2. Lisa Vinson

      I think that you care that you’ll “get it” is a big chunk of the battle. Good Luck with the start of what I hope will be a wonderful career for you.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      You are very welcome. And, I must say, that your handle has me all kinds of curious. LOL I’ll be taking a look at your blog! Thanks for reading and commenting. Please say hello again. :)

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Bless your heart, Shannon. I can only imagine how busy you are times two! Thanks for commenting and for reading. I hope you will stop by again. :)

  29. melmama

    So wonderfully written. I think keeping open-communication with your child’s teacher is definitely key. It’s scary to send them off, and not knowing what’s happening. Thanks so much for sharing!

  30. momathome

    WOW! You have nailed it: my son starts school next fall, is verbal but not reliably in any sense of the word. Its a lot of “nervous” talk, echolalia, scripting, etc. He still can’t even tell you his name and he is 4-1/2. I am scared to death and he is going to a private, small school that has known him since he was an infant. Still I am SCARED they don’t REALLY know and truly understand the depth of autism, sensory, anxiety, and all the issues that go along with it. I do’ know how to go about making sure they do without being overbearing and turning them away and making them feel inferior. I don’t want to come aross as th pain-in-the-butt who thinks I am always going to be down their throats and that they don’t klnow anything. Yet I need them to undeerstand his ways; his quirks; his communication; his needs; etc. IDK, just worried. Anyway, you were huge to realize the need-and you are wiser than ever! Made me cry.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thank you. I know just how scared you are. I hope that your son does really well at his school and that his teachers keep open lines of communication with you. Best wishes to you and your precious boy. I hope you will visit again. :)

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thank you for your kind words, but I should clarify that I wasn’t actually a special-needs teacher. Through inclusion and mainstreaming, almost every teacher ultimately has special-needs students in his or her classroom. And, unfortunately, we often don’t have experience with many of their needs. Inclusion is so often not done well, leaving regular ed teachers unprepared. This does not excuse us, but it does illustrate how much change is needed for special-needs inclusion kids and their teachers. Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I hope you will visit again.

  31. Ann

    We left the public school system because no one got it and after 3 years of unbelievable stress and depression on my part and my son’s part, we decided to homeschool. It has been wonderful. I get him 99% of the time. I am learning how to teach him as well, what works best, etc. I need to get some PD because I want to make sure I have as many tools in my toolbox as I can have. As a public school teacher myself, this was hard to accept. Oh and by the way, he does socialize. I arrange for as many opportunities for him as I can and he does what he can with those opportunities. I think that he is learning more from this than he ever did at school. AND he has the opportunity to really work through issues with me (he is super verbal, but not the best at communicating – getting better).

    Thank you for your post. Special education teachers were always the ones who got him the most even if they were a bit “misguided” at times. I wish you luck with your own child and with your future students.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thank you for reading and sharing. I was actually a regular ed teacher, but I often had at least one special-needs child in my classroom and do wish I had understood their parents’ needs more. I have all new respect for my special-needs teacher colleagues. They are so often tireless in their championing for our kids. I’m so glad that your son is doing well with homeschooling. I think it can be a great option in the hands of capable parents like yourself. Thanks for reading and sharing. Hope to see you here again. :)

  32. Victoria

    Wow. Thank you. Not only do I feel better now, I can also be sure and communicate better what I want in a teacher!

  33. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

    I can honestly tell you that almost every colleague I have worked with has cared about their students — including those with differences. What most teachers do not have is sufficient training about autism and other special-needs conditions in order to fully understand both the child’s needs and well as the parent’s. I’m hoping that, with my connections to the educational community in my county, that I might be able to play a part in starting a dialogue about this issue. I know that it is going to be my job to help prepare the way for my son – and, really, I should consider myself fortunate that I am already a part of that system. It gives me opportunities that I am sure other special-needs parents wish they had. Thanks so much for your comments and sharing your experiences. I do hope that you stop back by again. :)

    1. CJ

      Excellent post. I am a social worker and I work with many kids who have an ASD and their parents. I can hardly think about what these parents go through as I have seen it first hand.

      I have a son with ADHD and he has had teachers who have no clue about that either. I was shocked as that condition seemed relatively easy to comprehend.

  34. Judy

    Very well put. No two children are ever the same (special needs or not). My special guy has the mantality of apprx. 18 months, he’s a very large 12yr old. I worry daily how people will treat him. I must say he has a wonderful school setting for now, his teacher is not afraid to call (which it appreciate) with questions or concerns.
    I’m thankful she doesn’t demand goals he will never reach.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thanks, Judy. I’m so glad your son has an understanding and communicative teacher. Thanks for stopping by and sharing. Hope to see you again. :)

  35. Cheryl

    Thank you. I’m going to show this post to the Principal at my son’s school. Just last week I was trying to explain to her and the IEP team how frustrated I was that I knew nothing about what was going on in his classroom. This post will go a long toward speaking to how I’m feeling. Thank you.

  36. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

    Dear Ilene,
    Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on my post. It IS scary, isn’t it? I so wish that every school was blessed with someone whose job is it to keep the lines of communication open. I can tell you that the current trend in education right now is to give teachers less and less time to get anything done and more and more time in meetings. The irony for me, of course, is that in the evening I just want to go home and take care of my own special needs child – rather than spend the evening on the phone with other parents! It’s a balancing act – and one that I’m going to have to continue improving. I hope your precious twins have a wonderful start to kindergarten and continue to do well. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you return. :)

  37. betsy

    On Thursday, I will graduate with my masters with a degree in Autism and Intellectual Disabilities. I am the mom of 4 boys, the youngest of whom has Down syndrome. I have been a teacher for ages, but the feeling you describe here made me go get my advanced degree in special education. On Thursday I have to stand in front of an auditorium and speak for 15 minutes on why I did this. I am going to scrap my power point, and just read this. Are you ok with that? Hits it on the head. Meanwhile, when you go out for lattes and ponies, can I come? We’d hit it off for sure! :)

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Hi Betsy,

      Cool. :) Thanks for asking. Of course! And please let me know how it goes. And, yes, you are welcome to come. I don’t know anyone with your degree. I am sure I will think of ways to pick your brain. Please friend me on Twitter or Facebook or something and reference this so I know who you are. :)

  38. Sheila Stone

    let us know in a couple years how you still feel about educators. The homeschooling world is full of people who are trained and experienced educators who have given up on the brick and mortar system and knowledge for their special needs child. I’m one and I receive fabulous evaluations but I learned an awful lot of what I now know about teaching from homeschooling. Even a few great teachers can not make the difference for some kids and we need to stop being enemies over it.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      I will be sure to do so. I am one of those teachers who doesn’t have anything against homeschooling. I think it is sometimes a great option. I’ve seen it done horribly, but I’ve also seen great examples. I have often said, over the past year, that it is something I would be willing to explore if my son doesn’t flourish in public school. Thanks for sharing!

  39. Lisa Vinson

    Wow wonderful blog. Reading this I have an understanding just how blessed we have been so far in our own journey.
    I am raising my 4 1/2 yr old Grandson who had a stroke in utero and has multiple severe disablilites, (legally blind, CP and severe cognitive delay.) A neurosurgeon told me when Sean was 8 months that he would be a vegetable. He is far from that and in fact is now beginning to crawl and stand up against furniture. He only has a 10 word vocabulary and doesn’t always even say those. His major love is music, Il Divo to be specific and if you have special children that enjoy music I definitely recomend them.

    We got started in the Early Steps program here in Florida when he was 15 months old. It is an early intervention program for all kinds of delays. Motor, speech, etc.) When he aged out of that program he stayed right at the same school and is now in his second full year there. The school is part of the public school system here and is for children with mental, physical and behavioral issues. Their goal is always to move towards inclusion whenever possible.

    I am very pleased with the amount of communication and I know my child is well taken care of there and loved. ( sometimes to the point of spoiling him :) )

    One thing I have seen in this is how few parents play an active role in their children’s schools. I know not everyone can volunteer every day or even every month. But I believe that a lot of people would have a better understanding of the kind of teachers and aids that work with their children if they made the time to be part of school activities whenever possible, such as field day, chaperoning field trips and even getting involved with PTA and enhancement committees. A lot of parents don’t even show up for special programs the school holds during the year.

    I have been the coordinator for their Boxtops and Labels for education for the last two years and now know a large portion of the staff at Sean’s school, if not all by name at least by sight. I can walk into Sean’s class at any time of day.

    Like you, the staff there does have their own lives and issues at home and I think it helps them to know that we as parents are on board to be an active participant in our childs education.

    1. Tracy Card

      Our old school blocked all efforts to be a part of the school day. No volunteering as a book mom or class helper allowed and the teacher had the nerve to yell at me and tell me she was a good teacher and didnt deserve having to deal with my son (he was 6 at the time) so when he told her a boy had made him pull his pants down (and worse) she asked the other boy (her class pet) who denied everything so she called the police and had my son investigated (never closed) as an alleged sexual offender. Needless to say after years of fighting to make it happen he is in virtual school (public) for his 3rd year now. Safe from threats of death or injury, bullying, teachers, isolation, punishments (spent between 10-18 hours each week in the office in elementary school), suspensions, DCF allegations, but no help and no one implementing any of his plans (health, behavior, IEP). And we as the parents were cut off from communication almost completely. Then his 1st grade teacher told other parents to write to the principal about our son – by name – so she could get him out of her class. She also falsified records. A note she made that ended up in his file said that it really wasnt anything but she thought she should document that something happened. He and another boy had bumped heads so she wrote that my son had attacked the other kid.
      Make a difference – be an example to other teachers – prepare for battle – take notes – record meetings, write it down, confirm EVERYTHING in writing. After you record your meetings – type a transcript and send it to the school with a request for them to review and offer any info about mistakes.

    2. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Very well said. I’m so glad your grandson’s school situation works well for him. Our son is also in the Early Steps program, but he will be phasing out on his birthday in March.

      One of the things that is a bummer for a teacher is it being impossible to volunteer at your own child’s school! Volunteers are priceless, I know from experience. Thanks for sharing. Hope to see you again.

  40. Randi

    As a new elementary school teacher I have started working with Special-Needs Children and I have many concerns. I agree that teacher training needs to improve because I know that I didn’t receive adequate information on teaching Special-Needs Students. Because of this I am currently getting certified in Special Education. This letter was beautifully written and I want to thank you for giving me a different perspective.

    1. Tracy Card

      Biggest bit of advice I can give – parents know their children best. We know some things that work we know some that definitely do not. Do not ever do a disservice to a child by constantly making them start over at square one. Include parents. Consistency is key. Blend your methods because you really need to have similar strategies at home and school. If it were your child you would be just as protective.

    2. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Bless your heart. I take my hat off to my special-ed colleagues. They do all we do and more. Good luck in your career, and thanks for sharing.

  41. Michelle

    Thank you for writing this, it means a great deal to read these words.

    I am Mum to three boys with special needs aged 8, 7 and 6.

    I wish you all the best with your own journey with your child through the education system.

  42. Cecile McVittie

    Like you, I’m a parent of a child with special needs and a teacher librarian (what we call school media specialists in Canada) and I can echo your comments on kids on the spectrum and the library. Like you, I try to make the library a safe place for these students. I’ve currently got a student who is completing a work placement in our library.
    I also realized after my daughter was born how many times I missed out on truly supporting my students with special needs and learning differences and their parents. Thanks for this blog post. It articulated everything beautifully for me.

  43. Traci

    This has been the most gut-wrenching thing I’ve read in a while. I’ve caught the “looks” as I whip out my binder and graphed scores. I feel the eye roll, even when it hasn’t occurred, but I just KNOW someone wanted to. I try to talk myself out of feeling paranoid, but I know by the responses and tone that someone has thought, “Oh, she’s one of THOSE parents.” And I just want to scream “Why don’t you TRY to understand,” but instead maintain composure and try to rationally plead our case. It’s a rough road…Good luck on your journey!

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thanks, Traci. I haven’t yet had our first IEP meeting, but I am dreading them. I’ve already gotten a couple of eyebrows over my Binder of Epic Proportions. lol Thanks for sharing, and please stop by again. :)

  44. Tara Robertson

    I just cried my way through your post. Thank you for writing it.

    My 9 year old son has Autism/ODD and my 8 year old son has ADHD and suspected childhood depression… my youngest is “neurotypical”… so far anyway. She is only 4.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      I have a 4 year old NT as well. Believe me, you can tell the difference! LOL She’ll be fine. Thanks for sharing your kind comment. I hope you’ll visit again.

  45. cindasmommy

    I taught in a mainstream classroom in underprivileged neighborhoods for seven years and the amount of effort put into educating 27 children who entered my classroom so far behind was a challenge. I felt like a special ed teacher with the amount individualized instruction almost every child needed. I left education because as my daughter entered kindergarten, I realized I could never be the teacher I wanted her to have. Now, I focus my efforts on making sure I fill in every gap left (unintentionally) by her teacher. Kudos to teachers, special ed or regular ed, because no matter what type of child you’re teaching, there is a mother out there hoping that you’re taking care of their baby as well as she does. Good luck to you and your babies, both at school and the ones at home.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thank you! It IS hard to be a teacher, any kind. And, it is even harder now to make any individual time for a child than it was when I started 14 years ago. Your little girl is so lucky to have your experience in the classroom to bolster her. Thanks for taking the time to share.

  46. Emily

    I was a third grade teacher for 6 years. I could not manage the stress of the classroom and the stress of my son’s behaviors, so I put my resignation in earlier this year and am currently not working. You see, my son, Sammy is severely autistic. He is 5 years old, nonverbal, and still wears diapers. I understand being paralyzed with fear at times. Like you said, my child cannot tell me how his day went at school. It is excruciating to not know if he was proud of completing a task or if his feelings were hurt during the day. The only window I have to peek through are the short notes that are written down in the communication log. I feel like an annoying parent since I write notes on a daily basis. Now that I look back on the years that I taught, I see that I could have been more compassionate and could have devoted more time and energy meeting the needs of my special needs students. As a teacher, I felt like I understood pretty much how to meet the needs of my students, but I never really thought of the hardships my special needs students and their families endured. Now, when I return to teaching, I will understand. I will understand that a mother’s special needs child is her heart walking around. Her heart breaks because she doesn’t know what happens to it during the day, but she knows that the child is living in a world that can be so cruel. She cries and tries to stay strong. I also understand wanting to celebrate Sammy’s big accomplishments, but when I see his progress on paper, the reality of these accomplishments hit me. I see that my child will never measure up to what society calls typical. Do teachers understand what it feels like to really read an IEP? No. I understand goals are important, but don’t become so involved with achieving these goals that you lose sight of my child and my family.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Beautifully put. I’m sure that, when you return, you will be an even more phenomenol teacher. Thanks for sharing, and please stop by again.

  47. growingkidstherapy

    What a powerful blog! Very true and sometimes seems to be mission impossible from both sides! As a parent – you are placing your child in the hands of another. As a teacher, special educator or other device provider (SLP, OT, etc) you are operating in a finite system with infinite demands! Tough all the way around!

    As an SLP in private practice, I have the advantage of being able to work with both the child and the family. It is very difficult to establish the same relationship with providers in schools because the face to face contact is limited! I applaud families and teachers who do all they can to establish effective communication an true teamwork! Patience, trust, reasonable expectations and good communication seem to be the key elements to a successful relationship!

    Thanks again for the thought provoking article!

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thank you. And thanks for the huge role you play in helping our kids. I adore my son’s therapists – all four of them. lol

      I hope you’ll visit again, and thanks for your comments.

  48. Heather Snow

    This letter moved me. Having 2 children before my special needs child made it hard to deal well with the issues I now see everyday from my daughter. As for IEPs we have only had one. Her school didn’t find it necessary to set up a new meeting for this year but at least her teacher knows what is going on with her since she is the same teacher as last year. This letter made me feel sad that another parent has had to join our ranks but glad there is another parent out there that has the patience and understanding to handle a special child. Thank you for being brave and understanding for all the students you have taught in the past and for all the students you will teach in the future.

  49. Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson

    This is simply a beautiful piece of writing. As a college educator, I have felt I have failed many times — whether a child has had special needs or not. But always I have cared. I have desperately cared.

    Nothing is scarier than putting your child on that bus.

    I am sure that you will be a wonderful advocate for your child and make sure that even if your son can’t tell you about his day, someone will.

  50. Nancy

    Wow. This post warms my heart. Every teacher – special needs or not- should read it. Love and Light to your wonderful son. May he have joy and bring joy to your family.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thank you, Nancy. We are blessed that he already does. Many parents of autistic children don’t get hugs, smiles, and kisses. We are quite fortunate indeed.

  51. Sue

    Autism Story Book and others shared your post on Facebook and I am so glad they did. God Bless you for this post! I only wish some of my daughter’s teachers and the school administers would write a similar letter to my daughter. It would mean so much!

    She experienced severe bullying after having a second grade teacher who repeatedly called attention to her vocal tic even after we had advised her to ignore it. Then last year it was an intolerant teacher, who thought she understood autism because she had a friend with a child on the spectrum and had taught another student on the spectrum, who ultimately made my daughter shut down and leave the school she had loved even after she was bullied in elementary and middle school. The school had previously worked with us to help her overcome the bullying, where she had two wonderfully supportive teachers the year before who helped her so much. The school her two best friends attend, the school her father has attended, the school she had dreamed of attending all of her life, so much so that she would not even leave it after the bullying, yet she left it after the teacher wounded her and the school let her down for too long too before responding and finally understanding.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      I’m sorry to hear about your daughter’s experience. And how hard for you to suffer it with her.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. I do hope to see you here again.

  52. Tara (@Gr82chat)

    We have traveled the same road. Prior to having children, I had similar experiences being a teacher. I know now that I didn’t “get it” either and I consider myself to be an especially empathetic person. There was a little boy with autism/hyperlexia in my kindergarten class. His mum took him out of my class because the school wouldn’t commit to making the perimeter of the playground safe. I thought at the time that she was being a little dramatic.. and now my heart sympathizes with her distress. When my little boy with autism/hyperlexia went to school I gained a whole new appreciation for the situation so I am currently studying psych with a view to specializing in educational psychology so that I can help other teachers “get it.” I hear you LOUD and clear !!!

  53. Zane

    Thank you for this post. It IS how we parents feel. It’s why we cry at IEP’s. It’s why we cry when the school calls to ask us to pick-up our child who is just not following directions. Its why we cry when we get that call 4 times in one week. Its why we cry when we ask for more training of teachers and we just get a blank stare. Its why we cry when the whispers start. Its why we cry when they treat me like I am some obnoxious parent…
    and THIS is why my son is no longer in a full-inclusion setting because I wasn’t willing to have his self esteem wrecked any longer. He is now in a school meant for kids with high functioing autism and Aspergers..where they GET him..where they let him work 3 grades above his level…where they TEACH Social Thinking skills….
    I WISH every single teacher could read this letter. I KNOW its hard to be a teacher..but its HARD to have child who views the world different and its NOT his fault.

    1. Tracy Card

      Being forced to segregate is a terrible choice for a parent to have to face. I have my son in a virtual school for pretty much the same reasons and more – worse.

    2. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      I’m so happy for you that you have such a school available. I only wish we had that here…

      Thanks for your kindness in commenting and sharing. Best wishes, and please come again.

  54. Laurie

    Thank you for this letter! I advocated for my son in the public school system for 14 years and wish there had been more teachers like YOU…it would have made things so much easier!! My son’s best years were in High School, but only because the school had an awesome staff…it DOES make a difference! Educating staff is also extremely important and I hope that someday this is enforced more. It will not only benefit the child, it will empower the teacher and make his/her job soooo much easier!!! I wish the school district would GET that!! Thanks for all you do as a teacher and good luck to you and your children…I pray they get wonderful teachers that treat them well!

  55. Justafriend

    I was a parent long before I became a teacher, and I never could understand why all the teachers would look at my crazy when I would try to inform them that if they didn’t keep my son challenged he would be a discipline problem, or try to otherwise inform them of the difficulties of working with a gifted kid. While I know that my frustration is nothing close to what y’all are dealing with, as a close friend pointed out to me the other day, when it’s your child, you care just as much, no matter what the situation is!

    Being a teacher is not always an easy job. There are so many demands on our time that we often want to throw our hands up in frustration! It is also very hard top give every special needs child in your class the attention that they need when you have 6 special needs students in a class of 19. I can honestly say that most of try very hard, but the success rate is not always high!

    Great post Leigh!!! You are indeed AWESOME!!!

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Gosh, thank you! Gifted kids are a whole different challenge, I know. lol (But a lot of fun.) We are beginning to suspect that we will have two children in ESE. Our daughter is showing signs of giftedness. My friend Christy, who I mentioned in the Love Life, Be Brave post has the same situation.

      Thanks for reading and sharing.

  56. Colleen

    Thank you for writing this. Even though you weren’t my childs teacher, it made me cry. You do “get it”. My son with severe ADHD, anxiety, Asperger’s was in the public school system until October when we won the lottery for a special charter school that is was started by parents who had kids with Autism. My son has been through so much from the public school system. He has been locked in time out room, voted out of class, had the cops called on him (they didn’t tell the cops he had autism), been bullied, etc…. It has been years of stress and torture and he is only 12. After reading this, it was one big release for me. Thank you. You will never know what your words have meant to me.

  57. Deanna

    Thank you for this. I agee that this is what I have waited to here in a very long time. Only few understand what an IEP meeting feels like before it begins. I wish we had more staffed like you and I don’t just mean teachers! It is hard to get some people to understand what we parents feel and go through. Again thank you

  58. Tasha mann

    I dont know u, but i LOVE u!!!!! My son with autism started kindergarten this year and i am less than pleased with his teacher! Love his para and the reasorce room and the principle. But as u understand, the teacher just doesnt get it! Mason spends most of his day in the RR partly because ib my opinion his teacher is clueless. Dont get me wrong she seems amazing for the kids who arent so challeneged. Im attaching this to my “binder” for mason and am going to share with every educator i comenin contact with. Also i will be asking our principle to pass it out. Have i mentioned, our princlpe was a special education teacher before now?! How lucky are we that he has been on the frount lines?! I feel very blesssed to be part of such a special community of parents! Thank you more than i know how to say!

  59. 1hotmama

    Well said, my dear. Hard to explain our feelings for our kids until someone has their own little heart walking around outside their body.

  60. Katherine Gleeson

    Thank you, i love reading your letter and i which there were more people out there like you :)Dyslexia Group. Increase awareness and understanding, Katherine Gleeson.

  61. Glorai

    Thank you for this post!!! My son, age seven, has yet another IEP meeting this Friday and so going to print off the button and wear it with pride!!!

    Also, it is nice to know that I am not alone in my feeling of depression and anxiety.

    What’s a single parent of a child on the “Spectrum”

  62. Jennifer Minnelli

    Great post!! I appreciate your honesty and wish that more teachers could be this honest with themselves. Wish I had more time for blogging, but as my ASD child gets older, the daily advocacy only grows (and people seem more ignnorant…..). Thank you for getting the word out.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      You’re right. You don’t have time. Neither do I. LOL. (This week has been insane. The blog is a week old, and I’m so fortunate to have a kind husband granting me a little leeway this week.)

      Thanks for your kind words. Best wishes to you and your child. Come again!

  63. justathoughtgwl

    As a father with an autistic son let me express my appreciation for both your honesty and courage. There will be those times in life when we all look back and wish we had done things differently. I think that is true regardless of our profession or personal circumstances. I appaud your transparency and the willingness to be so public about your own struggles. I will say that my wife and I have been very fortunate over the years with regard to the public school system. My son is currently in the second grade and we have been nothing but delighted with the assistance and support that we have received from his teachers. Being a teacher in today’s cultural climate is not easy. I cannot begin to imagine the demands that are placed upon those teachers that are also having to work with all the challenges that come from autistic and other special needs children. I will be praying for you and your family. Take care and God bless.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thank you. It has gotten harder and harder over the past 14 years to do the job that really needs to be done. I hate that any teacher might read this and feel under atteck. Thanks for your kind words about our profession. Most teachers do care and want to help all students. Time is a huge factor.

      Thanks again!

  64. Monica

    I wept uncontrollably while reading this post. Thank you for “getting it” & posting about your experiences!

  65. Special needs mum

    Brilliant. I work in a special school in the UK, and my special needs son also attends the same school. Without fail, all our staff are dedicated and wonderful. However……. they lack that total empathy and understanding the parents need from them. How can they walk in our shoes when they don’t need to? We have to trust our special children to their care and hope against hope that they receive what they need from the people looking after them.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Nice to hear a perspective from across the pond. I’ve been curious about education in the UK and special ed in particular. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Hope to see you again.

  66. Casey

    Such a wonderful story. Thank you so much for sharing. It brought tears to my eyes. Signed, Mother of an autistic 14 year old boy.

  67. Debbie K.

    Awesome and wonderful! We’ve had a few of those teachers over the years who just didn’t get it. The brilliance of this piece made me cry. Just beautiful!!!

    Debbie K. (@JackPatzMom)

  68. Jessica E.

    My son is non-verbal also. I feel your pain. I also feel sorry for his my older son, because this has changed his world also, but we are getting there with some help from the Lord and good teachers. 😀 Thanks for getting it!

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      I worry about my daughter as well. She has been acting out lately, seeking attention in the same way he does. She is too young to understand.

      Thanks for sharing. I hope to see you again.

    2. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thank you. We have some positive signs that our son will talk, but it is so stressful in the meantime while we wait to see. Thanks for sharing and visiting. Please come again.

  69. Jennifer

    This made me tear up because this is how I feel everyday when I send my little boy who is nonverbal out into the world.

  70. Lisa

    Great post! Your son sounds quite a bit like my 5 y.o. I put him on the bus to Early Childhood preschool as a preverbal child. I had no clue what went on during his day. I was working, and would bombard the teacher with questions via email. Today my son is a verbal boy who lives on the spectrum…and he is progressing overall. I still wish I got more clear communication, but I have learned which questions to ask his teachers and specialists to get what I need. Good luck!

  71. Margaret

    Your words and sentiment are beautiful.
    I’m in a strange position. My children are not ASD, and I am not a full-time teacher, special-ed. or otherwise. I substitute teach from Kindergarten through High School, as needed.
    My favorite classrooms in which to teach are actually Special Ed, and specifically, with kids on the spectrum. The reason is twofold: 1) As a stranger coming into a classroom, I get way more support and explanation for the child’s individual needs. Paras and staff who are familiar with routines and triggers are there to help make sure the kids have the best learning environment in a less-than-ideal situation. 2) Due to privacy issues, I often walk into a mainstream classroom with no idea what to expect. Teachers are not allowed or advised to let me know who the special-needs children are (unless they have an ALLERGY!) or the best way to help them learn. I get so frustrated with “behavior charts”. How about tell me what to do or say to best engage the kids (each class is different) rather than have me act as a glorified babysitter watching for missteps when I could be watching for triggers and helping avoid missteps?!
    I love teaching and connecting with kids. Substituting is perfect for me right now, but I know I could be so much better if teachers could leave me not just lesson plans, but student plans.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      I was a sub for two years and loved it too. I think it is great that you enjoy working with special-needs so much. Not all subs do…

      Thanks for sharing. And I love that – student plans. :)

  72. Holly

    Your perspective is like x-ray vision and will serve you well as a teacher (and a mom) to a special needs child. Your students (and your son) are lucky to have you, your insight and your collaborative instincts to help them on their journeys.

  73. Pingback: A Teacher Has A Child With Autism… « Deeply Distracted

  74. Jennifer

    You took the words out of my mouth!!! Thank you so much for saying what has been in my head for four years now. I am a former special ed teacher, and for the past year and a half, I have been staying at home. My son is now in preK, and he has cerebral palsy. I lay in bed sometimes and feel guilty for some of the choices I made while teaching.

    I see that a few people have already asked, and you have said yes, so I plan on sharing on my blog and cross posting to your site. What an impact this post has made:-)

  75. CD

    Thank you for writing this. I got this link from a friend and it is wonderful to hear a teacher say this. I am a mom of two special needs kiddos: one who has Asperger’s and the other who is blind, nonverbal and cognitively delayed due to birth trauma. I wish more special ed teachers were proactive, but I also wish they had the resources and the support to do so. Thanks again for writing this.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      That is more often the truth – a lack of resources, support, and time. That affects me every day. Best wishes to your special babies. And thanks for sharing.

  76. KBC

    I wish everyone in the school system would read this letter. My son is apraxic and developmentally delayed. He has went to preschool full-tme for three years and is now in the first grade. From the five years he’s been in the school system, this is by far the worst year with people communicating with me and people understanding how they should treat him and understanding that he is a special needs child. I asked the teacher if she’d give me a name list so when he’s trying to tell me a story about a kid I can go down the list and he can tell me which one he’s talking about. It makes him happy when I know who he’s talking about instead of “a girl” or “a boy.” After many reminders, I finally got the list… 3 months later. A month after school had started, I had asked her to please keep me updated on my son in the classroom and told her other teachers usually sent home a note at least once a week or so about cute stories or how he was doing. It’s now half way through the school year and she has sent one note home. A response to a boy that had been picking on my son. It said, “I talked to him.” I had never asked a teacher to keep in touch with me about my son. They just always did. I assumed it was because they knew he couldn’t come home and tell me things. Not with this teacher. She doesn’t seem to pay him much attention at all. We had our IEP meeting yesterday and she doesn’t seem to know much of nothing about my son and where he actually is academically. All she says is “he’s doing good” “he’s fine” “he’s doing great in class” but nothing about what he is actually doing so well and she says he is doing things he can’t do yet. For example, he knows about half of his abc’s and she said he knew all of them. He doesn’t. I’ve also removed him from the bus this year. He loves the bus except this year the driver, who I talked to on the first day to explain things, kept harassing him. She’d lecture him daily about waiting in the car at the bus stop (that bus stop has been the same way for over 10 years. It’s a dangerous stop on a blind turn.) He kept getting upset about the bus but I didn’t know why. I asked the driver and she yelled at me for him waiting in the car. This apparently went on for a few weeks before he had began to get upset. The board of education and everyone above her backed her up and said she probably wasn’t aware of his situation after I told them that I had told her in the beginning. I’m so upset with the school system this year…

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      I’m sorry for your experiences. And I hope you get a more communicative teacher next year. Thank you for taking the time to reply and share. Best wishes to you and your boy.

  77. Kathi

    Thank you. That is all I want to say really. SO many people have seen this post now because it has been shared by all of us special needs moms! My son is 9, nonverbal but coming along now. I wish you the best. Again, so well said and a healing balm to all of us who are the sole advocates of our kids and awash in IEP’s, etc. :)

  78. Belinda Phillips

    THANK YOU FOR YOUR BRAVE APOLOGY! AS A MOTHER OF AN 18 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER WHO HAS SIGNIFICANT SPECIAL NEEDS AND IS NON-VERBAL, I APPRECIATE YOU! I know your journey going forward will not be easy, but I guarantee that your son will teach you more than you ever expected and that your life will be enriched in more ways than you thought possible….and your son is very lucky to have you as his mom.

    With much love…….Belinda Phillips

  79. Kelli

    I want to thank you for this post. I have shared it on my facebook, and really hope my sons teacher sees it. My son is verbal,but lacks in receptive and expressive vocabulary he’s 4. This blog really hit home for me because over the weekend, his two “friends” (ty beanie babies) were talking to each other, the 1st asked if he could play and the 2nd said no (sons name) I don’t like you! Broke my heart! I know my son and know that he was reapting what someone has said to him. Now 2 days in a row begging to not go to school! :( Man I wish I knew what was going on while he is away from me.

  80. Kate Kelley

    One of my favorite sayings is “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” Thanks for reminding me of the endless battle parents of special needs children must fight.

    I retired after 23 years of teaching, mostly because it had become impossible to do the job right and give my students all they needed and deserved. I always welcomed special needs kids; they made me a better teacher. But in recent years using those skills and abilities marked me as a “rogue”, so I saw that it was time to leave the herd. The education pendulum will swing back as it always does, but I’m afraid things will get worse before they get better. Parents, please keep fighting for sanity and humanity in our schools.

    I couldn’t bring myself to leave education entirely, so now I’m a special ed science paraprofessional. I modify materials, help teachers, and, best of all, give individualized attention to students. I feel like I’ve gone back to truly being a teacher instead of a tester. Love it!

    By the way, whenever I called a parent I made sure I had a good chunk of time available. I loved my students – how can you not love a kid? – and once a parent sensed that, the walls came down and we’d talk, mom to mom. The most important conversations were after the usual discussion of grades, etc. I learned to wait for the pause and the “By the way…” “By the way, his grandfather just died.” “By the way, her dad left us and we’re losing our house.” “By the way, sometimes he gets overwhelmed in a room full of people. Is there some way he could take a break?”

    Teaching is a great, and worthwhile, battle. I always considered parents to be my most valuable allies. Keep fighting – kids are worth every effort!

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      I can tell – you are a great teacher. :)

      Thanks so much for sharing and commenting. Nice to hear from a colleague – who doesn’t interpret my words as an attack. It was never intended to be.

      Please visit again.

  81. MBFXC

    Bravo! Thank you for your honesty! Perspective is a powerful thing! We might not understand a student or a families perspective because we haven’t walked in their shoes, but if we are open and willing to see each and every child as someone’s gift to this world then we would communicate more, teach differently and view our role in the classroom as sacred.

  82. Devi

    What a beautiful and well said letter! As a Paraprofessional and also as a mother of a child on the ASD, I understand how you’re feeling and going through. But have hopes, faith and dreams and always tell yourself that your child will improve. My son regressed when he was 15 months and now he’s 9 yrs old and talks, but not like a typical child, but he communicates. I always say to myself that he will and he one day will sit and have a conversation with me. I treat the kids that I’m assigned to, like they were my own and defend them when the typical kids make fun or are mean to them. I think about my own child and I don’t know if it happens to him too. Stay strong and things will get better.

  83. Ken Kopp

    We have a son who is high funtioning. He is in the first grade and we worry about him everyday. He has a good teacher this year and last but her communication skills with us in next to minnimal. But we know by how much compleated work he brings home she does a good job with him. she says we can always call or e-mail her. When he was in Pre-School he had a teacher who ( has a brother with Autisum ) took him under her wing and continued teaching him all summer that year and after school the next year. ( she was not his teacher this year ) She really Loves teaching Kids with Autism. It must be her calling.
    I know teaching kids with Autism is challenging and stressful I’m sure. but knowing that there are Teachers out there who Honestly understand these kids is a relief. but it’s the luck of draw to get one.
    Thank you for posting this letter it means alot. I pray that your Child gets a Teacher who gets it.

  84. Thanita

    Thank you for this post. I have 3 kids receiving SpED services in our district. My youngest has food and other anaphylactic disabilities. Imagine if one mistake, one oversight could actually kill a child. That’s my real fear. My son on the spectrum may not receive all he’s entitled too under IDEA, but my little one, my baby could have a fatal reaction if her 504 and individual health care plans are not comprehensive enough, not understood well, not read at all. I’ve put all my trust in our district. So far so good :)

  85. Melissa

    Love this post!!

    My mom is a special ed teacher. A great one.

    My little girl has Down syndrome. (We haven’t gotten to IEPs yet.)

    But I already know, as great a teacher as my mom is, she doesn’t get it. She may have sat through MANY IEPs, and had many kids come through her classroom, but it’s so different to have it be YOUR child that can’t tell about her day, what she did, who was nice to her and who wasn’t…..

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thank you for saying that. I’m afraid that one or two people felt that I was indicting special ed teachers. That wasn’t my intention. It is just simply true that being a special needs parent changes everything.

  86. Jamie

    WOW! And Bravo to the author, who’s humility and self awareness have enabled her to LEARN even as she teaches. You are a credit to this profession and I applaud you with a standing ovation.

  87. Jacki

    As a parent of a non verbal girl, I can say that it is true that most teachers and aids that I have had in my daughter’s life wasn’t trained to understand her. She was just there and they could treat her that way because of her physical limitations. I just wanted them to love her as much as I did. I wanted them to say what she could do not what she couldn’t. I’m glad her school days are over.

  88. Shari

    IEP meetings make me cringe and get butterflies in my stomach. Thank you for this letter. You must be one special person with a lot of humility to write this.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thank you, Shari. Though, truth be told, it was a lot easier to drum up this humility when I thought only a couple of hundred people at the most would read it. LOL Seriously, it has been an amazing experience to meet you all and connect. Thanks for your kind comments. Please visit again.

  89. Rebecca Smith-Darner

    Ditto. I am a speech language pathologist. My son is a non-verbal 3 (almost 4 year old) with autism. My one year old is showing every sign of being language delayed. It has significantly impacted the way I conduct therapy.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Bless your heart. But thank goodness those babies were places in your hands. I would imagine that it is like my doctor friend’s experience – knowing every thing that can go wrong and more than you wanted to. Thanks for sharing.

  90. Matt Ray

    I applaud your honesty and commitment to moving forward. I also understand the rationale behind apologizing up and down for what you have done in the past. Try not to fault yourself too much. Anyone of us who works with kids has done something in the past, either in our dealings with the kids or their parents or even our colleagues/admin, that we regret. The worst is when we don’t learn from it. You clearly have chosen to use your past as learning experiences, and there’s no apology necessary for that. Good luck and thanks again for the honesty.

    BTW, an example of something from the past I regret, but learned from:

  91. Pingback: An Apology From Your Child’s Former Teacher « dpasko1

  92. 12times4

    No apology needed. I am sure you were one of the teachers who the parents of those kids prayed for and thanked God for every night. The truth is that none of us “get it” until it happens to us. I used to read all the special needs blogs and articles I could find. But I would get so upset at the anger and the demands of special needs parents. I DO understand the frustration, I promise. But by and large, the thing I feel for teachers and educators is GRATITUDE. We have found most teachers in the public school system to be kind, compassionate, and well-intentioned. No, they usually don’t ‘get it’ – how could they? I didn’t either. But I have found when I approach them with gratitude, humility & understanding, their response to our needs and requests is incredible.
    Your letter describes my feelings so perfectly. I understand how busy teachers are. I realize that spending that extra 3 minutes writing down instructions is almost impossible some days. I know my child tries their patience- believe me, she tries mine too. I really hate that I have to ask them for more of their time than they are already giving. But boy, for those teachers that do it with a smile, a kind word, or a pat on the back to encourage my child, they have my undying gratitude. They will never know what that extra bit of kindness and support means to my family. They are truly angels to us. Thank you thank you thank you for articulating what I never could put into words.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thank you so much for your kind reply and for sharing. I adore my daughter’s teachers, and hope I have just as much luck with my son’s. Great ones are a blessing. Thanks again.

  93. Mindy

    I so appreciate the honesty of this letter and think that you are a very caring special mom and teacher to post it. I do think that for some reason I have seen the relationship with between teachers and moms get unpleasant, so I just wanted to post the point of view of a mom with wonderful teachers so far. For the past 2 years I have been lucky enough to have teachers who really see my son as an individual and really got him. His teacher now is patient, kind, communicative and always looking for ways to get through to him. I think there are lots that dont get it and really need a kind and persistent mother to help them understand. its hard for me to understand what he needs sometimes so I dont blame them for not understanding. As long as they care to keep trying and seeing our children as special people- individuals with unique problems, unique blessings and lots of potential I will appreciate them and what they do all day long to try and educate my son. I think the best teachers are willing to be BOTH teachers and students- willing to learn from the kids they teach and thier parents and willing to teach both the parents and their children. You are clearly one of those willing to learn as well. Your students from here on out will be lucky to have you :)

  94. Issa

    Because you are a teacher, you should know that children are not autistic. Children HAVE autism. The behaviors are autistic. How would you refer to a child with cancer? Surely, not cancerisic.

  95. ilyssa

    Love this!!!! As a teacher for 13 years and a mom of a mostly non-verbal chlid with needs myself for 5 (who is also about to go to school full time next year), it is truly a completely different perspective. You said this so beautifully I had to share your post. Thanks for putting into words pretty much exactly what I feel. I just hope that I can find someone with similar first hand understanding to teach my son…but that’s not exactly something you can ask when you go visit a classroom. :) Thanks again and happy holidays to you and your family!

  96. Lucia Alonso

    Omg, you have me in tears, I was just talking to my friend/fellow mother warrior/ex special Ed assistant about this exact thing. I was telling her that if only teachers took it upon themselves to see exactly what it feels like to leave your non-verbal child in the hands of complete strangers just praying to god that they treat him well, have patience with him, learn to understand his ways, learn from him, love him as if my son was theirs, this world would be a much better place. If only the ESD people knew how heart breaking it is to leave your son at school just hoping everyone has the dedication and half te passion we do to help our children. If they only knew how much it hurts to be denied services your child so desperately needs, if only they knew.

    Thanks so much for this letter, I’m printing this out and giving each person involved in my sons IEP team a copy, hopefully it helps them understand that autism or any other special nees could happen to anyone, even them. Thanks so much for your courage to accept that u didn’t quite understand, it takes a real woman to accept her faults! BUT YOURE WAY MORE THAN THAT, YOU’RE A MOTHER WARRIOR!

      1. Lucia Alonso

        I sure will, like I said I’m taking this to my IEP meeting so maybe they will see that maybe just maybe they could care just a bit more :) I wish all special ed teachers would make a bigger effort to be the best they could be!

  97. Julie Keon

    Brilliant. I will share with my sister who is a loving teacher and she will share with her staff I am sure.
    Author of “What I Would Tell You”

  98. Matt March

    My wife is a Special Education teacher in a public school and I do not recognize her in this post in the least. The hours she spends agonizing over IEPs, fighting for her students and their needs, and advocating as hard as she can so that they get the education each one needs, not to mention the money we have spent as a family to get that special something for a child that gives them what they need that the school can’t/won’t buy for the classroom. My wife leaves for school at 7am every morning and often returns home at 5pm, only to eat and then back to work (at home) preparing for the next day.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      I did not write this post in the name of your wife. I wrote it from my own perspective as a teacher who made the journey from teacher of a special-needs child to parent of one. I assure you, that I, too, do a whole lot of 7 to 5 days, and, after 14 years, I know what kind of work teaching really is. I meant simply this: it is impossible to understand a person until you have walked in their shoes. I now understand the depth of feeling behind a special-needs parent’s emotions. And, until you have experienced that firsthand, you can’t know. Your wife is clearly a dedicated teacher. And I hope my son has one just like her. There are thousands of them out there. Unfortunately, without my background being special education, I was somewhat at a loss in the regular ed classroom trying to meet their needs without any training or support. That is true of a lot of regular ed teachers – and, for that reason, I was looking back wishing I had had a better understanding of their and their parents’ needs. My letter was NOT an indictment of the teaching profession. I AM a teacher. And I know as well as anyone what kind of dedication goes into it. Your wife is blessed indeed to have a husband who understands what she does and supports the sacrifices she makes to do it well. Best wishes to you both.

  99. Judy Winter

    What a great piece. Thanks so much for sharing it with other families and professionals. You’ve written what many parents have experienced firsthand. The sting of facing such challenges in the educational system never really goes away. I’ve featured your terrific post on my blog this morning:

    Warmest regards!

    Judy Winter
    Author: Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations
    Co founder: Eric ‘RicStar’ Winter Music Therapy Camp-Michigan State University

  100. Dixie Aderhold

    My Daughter called me frustated and in tears one day last week. She works as a substitute in her school district and she had spent the day in the extended resource room at the high school with the profound special needs children, She was devistated by the lack of stucture, challenge, and attention these children recieved. she wanted my advice on who to report to. As parents you have the right and responsiblility to monitor our childs education!!! visit the classromm , watch ,monitor, if it doesn’t suit you get it fixed!!! we as Americans must learn to start using our voices!!!!!

  101. Sheli Cundiff Sorensen

    I have twin boys.. They are on an I.E>P.. But my sons teacher is the best. She really makes them try hard and, doesnt just treat them as casual kids.. She really cares, and thrives more and more for her children in the class… I will hate for them to move on next year, because there are not many teachers that take the time and effort with the needs of individuals as she does.. Way to teach~ MRS. ENGLE… YOUR THE BEST~~ And me and the boys love you for it~~ My oldest daughter wants to be a special education teacher, and i know she would be a great teacher, but its so hard with this economy to not to try to persuade her to do something different, with all the education cut-backs, and lay-offs, im afraid for her to do all that schooling and not be able to work in the field she graduated for… :)

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      I’m sorry to say that I wouldn’t encourage my own child to enter teaching. It is not a great place to be right now. Not because of the kids, but because of the impossible demands placed on teachers these days. It’s highly stressful.

  102. Starmum

    Both of my children are proud to call themselves autistic and my husband is also more than happy to apply that ‘label’ to himself. It is not derogatory, it is a descriptive term in the same way as I might describe myself as ‘asthmatic’. It is not who I am, but it is a part of who I am, and my family would say the same about the term ‘autistic’. They are also both highly intelligent and so also have the ‘label’ ‘gifted’ applied to them at school; again, this is just a part of who they are.
    I think, as a parent of children with additional needs there are enough battles to be fought without picking irrelevant ones. If you are offended by the term ‘autistic’ fine, but don’t assume we all are. My children ARE autistic, they are also intelligent, funny, enthusiastic, generous, trusting…and a host of other ‘labels’ as well!
    Fab post re the apology. Am going to share it with collegues in school.
    Thank you.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thanks, Starmum! I wasn’t certain how I was going to reply to that comment. It is SO hard not to offend people. And I risk offending even more with a reply. I may turn the topic into a post. Now, if only I can locate that comment. I’ve been searching for it for ten minutes. lol Thanks again.

      1. Starmum

        I think when you have two unique children you become thick skinned and fairly unoffendable!!! Maybe that’s just an English thing, but I def think there are bigger battles to fight!
        Great post anyway, sums up my experience in two mainstream uk schools with my two children. The second school was chosen because the Head has a child with ASD so I thought she’d Get It; she doesn’t though, her child went to her school so communication wasn’t an issue for her….hasn’t made her, or the staff, any better at communicating with us though! We have something called a TAC meeting tomorrow (team around the child). It’s where everyone who works with the child, school, physio, educational psychologists, speech therapy etc get together….sounds good in principle, but really it’s like an IEP meeting but worse….with the obigatory “he doesn’t do that at school” sentence thrown in every time we give an example of a meltdown…fact that hey are usually all ABOUT something that has happened in school appears to pass school by….onwards and upwards though hey :-)

  103. Betty R.

    Thank you for this wonderful piece. I am that parent you speak of and it is very hard to convey what you finally realized.

  104. Pingback: Too Little Too Late |

  105. Jessica

    Leigh, I found this letter through Apraxia Mom, put it on my blog with author unknown, then one of my readers told me it was your letter! I hope you don’t mind that I did put it on my blog and post edited it with your credit and link. :-) I am in the process of creating a non-profit organization to give scholarships to families that need educational advocates but can’t afford them. I would love it if you took at peek at my blog and let you know what you think. We’ve been on quite a journey that eventually resulted in our Attorney Journey and thankfully our daughter has been placed in a private school. IEPs are stressful. But the help of an advocate really made all the difference.

  106. P.S.Remesh Chandran

    Children are the flowers of humanity without whom human society would have been a dreary desert. Children needing special care and attention is the way God asks us whether we care. When it is our child, we shower love and kindness on them, and when they go to school we pray the same love and kindness be showered upon them by others also. Once we know that it did not happen so, we will pine in our hearts, especially when we think about our child’s inability to express in words what inequality and harshness he or she experienced in school. In such circumstances and occasions we would be much grateful for some single teacher who at least occasionally contact us or write to us regarding our child. We would think about them as God-sends. But one thing ought to be specially noted here. Except in the most developed countries, children with special needs are sent to school with great grief by mothers, because they know that there is practically no one there to care for them, notably in most schools in the Asian countries. It is god who walk them back home safe each day there.

  107. Joanne

    Thank you so much for this article. This has touched my heart so deeply. I have encountered to many teachers for my son and my only hope is that they take care of him and encourage him in school as I would at home. All hope is not lost. Teachers nowadays are such advocates too that they only want what’s best for your child. More power to teachers all over the world!

  108. Alisa Hamilton Ricketts

    I love that part about teaching the I.E.P., not the child. I have a special-needs daughter that is almost 21 and she will be finished with high school in approximately 2 weeks. I can’t say enough about how HAPPY I AM that it is almost over. O.V.E.R. I would not wish on anyone what my daughter has been forced to endure, and what I have had to endure, since she was in kindergarten. The entire school system, when it comes to special needs kids, needs a complete overhaul. But, since I do not foresee that happening anytime soon, all I can say to everyone else is may God truly be with all of you as you navigate the school system and try to do what is best for your child!

  109. TeresaTrent

    What an incredible post. I have that binder. My son is also nonverbal and 18 and the point you made about communication is the one thing we have complained about at IEPs for years and years. Many days we hear more from the bus driver than the classroom teacher. Thank you for writing this!

  110. Laura

    I love you. My son has always loved the library and read voraciously. Thank you and all of the wonderful media specialists who have loved and cared about my boy. It meant more to me and more to him than you will ever know.

  111. AveHurley

    My son didnt get his official IEP til 5th grade and I had them put him back in 4th grade as he wasnt ready for 5th. He coudl talk, but few believed him til he came home from school with the bruises inflicted by the principal. WE then had him transferred to another school where just by having teachers who cared, he finally started doing better. I wish I had believed him earlier on when he said they were mistreating him in the first school~!!! He has ADHD and ODD and even with the IEP that district never ‘got it’ but they gladly accepted the additional Fed Funds for disabled students..he is out of school now, but I do hope more teachers become more aware and less frustrated with the needs of IEP kids~!

  112. Zoila

    I have yet to read all those responses. But I wanted to thank you for writing this. It brought tears to my eyes. Like most who struggle with teachers, staffs, and bullies. I am only sorry that it took you going through the heartache to get our fears.

  113. Rburdine

    This made me sob. My daughter has Angelman Syndrome and is non-verbal and non-mobile. The dreaded IEP is next week. I sent it onto my Angelman family and made lots of them cry too. Thank you for this. It helps me not feel like “that mom”. Or maybe I am “that mom” but that it is ok.

    (If you want to know more about Angelman SYndrome, please visit

  114. Melanie

    Thank you for writing this. Thank you for getting it. I wish that my son’s teacher thought as you do. We bought him a camera for his birthday because he has been “stealing” ours for a year and taking pictures to communicate his needs, wants and desires. But she doesn’t want to be “responsible” for his having a digital camera at school because the school policy is no electronics. She won’t allow him to have music for the bus for the same reason (and he is much better behaved in a vehicle with music) despite the fact that the nest step is a bus aide which is much more expensive. If we cannot convince her this year the next step is to get his dr. to write a prescription for him to be allowed to have those items. The school had refused to provide an appropriate lunch despite being told he is allergic to canned tomato sauces because we couldn’t get a dr to sign a paper saying he was alergic…every year this same teacher has another way to make our lives more difficult. And she is the only one in the district for his grade level.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      I’m sorry to hear that. I can’t imagine not being flexible enough to help a unique child. Best wishes to you, and I hope your son gets a new teacher!

  115. Glen Shue

    I am fortunate in not having to go through those things that have been mentioned but recently, for autism I read some reports concerning vitamin D. For anyone who is concerned with that, I recommend contacting the Vitamin D Council — or write The Vitamin D Council, 1241 Johnson Ave. #134, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

  116. Linda

    I have been dealing with this for 0 yrs myself, I just removed my so from public school due to all the torture he puts up with, teachers yelling at him all day, students teasing , bullying and beating him up, its been insane, The IEP meetings r a joke, they just want tot strip your child of all his services, due to budget cuts excuses all the time, and when you do have things on the IEP, they do it for 2 weeks then it disappears, my son is verbal and tells me everything, and the school hates me cause I know everything going on and address it, I’m the squeaky wheel that needs the oil! i’m sick of fighting the broken sysem, so i put him in private school with the mckay grant, BUT they stripped his services so much the grant doesnt cover the cost of the private schools. The one private school lasted one week for us, it was chaotic, not structured, kids walking around aimlessly, playing video games all day, sleeping on couches etc, and the older kids teaching the younger kids inappropriate language and sexual content, You can’t win unless you homeschool, then they lose the social aspects, so I think all us parents need to fight for a legislation to get a public special needs school in every school district in the country! These kids don;t have disabilities they have abilities! they r all special people that have come to earth to help this planet, most being Indigo children. Theres tons of info on this online and youtube, there r starseeds, rainbows, crystals and indigos, they say autistic kids r really dolphins, they r here to raise the frequency of this planet to help mankind evolve, research it! Its amazing! Thanks for the apology, and one never knows these kids until you have one yourself, we all need to stick together and fight for them, being one person alone fighting is exhausting, but an army of us can move mountains! :)

  117. AllGrownUp

    Dear Child’s Former Teacher:

    All is forgiven. Some of our parents didn’t know, either. You did the best you could.

    An Asperger’s Kid All Grown Up

  118. Pingback: An Apology From Your Childs Former Teacher | Sensory Flow

  119. Anonymous teacher

    As a severe to profound educator, I find this VERY offensive to me and those I work with! My children are on IEP’s and my sister’s son (my nephew) is a child with autism. I work my butt off to make sure that I am providing the best education. I take it seriously and very personally! With larger class sizes and more demanding parents, ridiculous paper work (to protect us) and state standards that aren’t even logical; I don’t get the quality time with my students I would like!!! I stay at school WELL past my contracted time! Well more than the general educator! I have sacrificed time with my own children for YOUR child!! Yet it’s never enough! I can’t do enough go satisfy anyone! That is why I am leaving the field of SPED! Rarely did I hear “good job!” or “thank you!” Maybe if you realized we are the most underpaid, under appreciated people in education, yet we take the verbal abuse, snarls, mean spirited messages and keep taking great care of your child MEANS we care!!!! It hurts that you don’t care about us and all the effort and time we put into YOUR child!

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Dear Anonymous Teacher,

      I’m sorry that you have interpreted this as a personal attack. It wasn’t. I was merely attempting to convey that it is impossible to understand what another person feels until you have been in her situation. As a teacher, I am well-aware of the work that ALL teachers do on a daily basis. No, we don’t have anywhere near enough time to do our jobs properly. And, often, we are not appreciated. However, I really do not believe that being hurtful to you is any special-needs parent’s intention. I’m certain that there are some of us who DO need to remember that teachers have their own families and lives and need time to dedicate to them as well.

      I hope that you will be happier now that you are choosing to leave special education. It sounds like you could use a break. Best wishes.

  120. kimberley

    First I want to thank you for such s heart felt apology. I have a beautiful two year old niece who is also nonverbal and I worry about her constantly. I pray that her teachers are as considerate and protective of our Angel as I now believe you will forever be because of your sweet Angel. May Gods protective arms remain around our children.

  121. Karen

    I am a parent of a daughter with special needs, as well as a special educator myself. I have had to fight for my daughter for years and she is only 6 years old. We moved school districts and have been blessed by a very caring and devoted staff. I can’t be any happier. I would love to send this to her past 3 teachers from early childhood, pre-k, and Kindergarten. My daughter hated going to school and she was just in kindergarten. Because of her, I communicate so much with all of parents because that is what I want from my daughter’s teachers.

  122. Jenni Deiderich

    I’m not a teacher (though I aspire to be one) nor a parent of a special needs child (though I have friends and family who are). I don’t even pretend to know how either of those jobs feels. Yet this made me cry. So very humble. Excellent writing.

  123. soulfighter83

    I was just fiddling around on my dashboard and happened to see this. I had to stop for a moment and then I had to finish reading it. I reread it three times. I have to say thank you. A lot of people out there, teachers included, do not realize the difference on a child-by-child basis. I struggled with my public school system here and I finally ended up removing my two special needs children from the school system. I am now a home-school mom and a full-time student, so I completely understand the struggles on both sides. There have been many times that I have wished that I could just take a moment to explain to my son’s teachers about things that help him, but never once would they listen. I am glad that now that you understand a little bit better, maybe that will make a difference for you. Keep up the wonderful work and good luck on public school!

  124. Lanae

    We have been blessed w/ amazing teachers for our son. His current teacher has been w/ him for 3 years now & will probably be w/ him through his grade school years. We talk on the phone all of the time. I have her cell phone # we connect on facebook & through email. She calls me when he is having a rough day & she calls me to tell me when he did something great. She came to his Birthday party this summer & brought her son. She is a very strong advocate for her students & she loves them all. Our IEP meetings are a breeze because we are both wanting the same things for our son. Teachers like her are a special breed & I wish that there were more like her out there.

  125. Jackie

    Great post, I am unfamiliar with your blog so I may be talking out of turn however please be aware that the public system is not for everyone. I know many families who homeschool children with autism. They all say a simular thing when they stopped public schooling the issues of trying to get their child to ‘fit in’,’ cope’, etc were removed. They were able to focus on the child the whole family became a more cohesive unit and often now they find they forget ‘just for a little while’ that their child is autistic.
    Follow your heart, which I am sure you are. I just like people to be aware there is a choice.
    Love from a former school teacher

    1. cricket

      We are now taking steps to homeschool our younger twins (she with dyslexia; he with PDD/NOS). We can’t afford a private school, nor a lawyer, and are giving up on the public school system too.

      Our older son (Asperger’s) is in high school, and is learning, more teaching himself, to self-advocate, when we can not do it with him.

      We are also looking forward to a decreased stress level in our lives with the homeschooling. Yes, we anticipate hurdles along the way, since neither my wife nor myself are trained educators. But we came to this decision only because the trained educators on our childrens’ teams just don’t have the wherewithal to do what’s right, nor the stones to speak up when something’s wrong.

    2. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      I agree. In fact, my daughter is in private school. And I have been saying for a while now that I will yank out my son should it prove to be bad for him. Sometimes other options are called for.

      Thanks so much.

  126. Jenn

    This made me tear up. I’ve been blessed with AMAZING teachers for my two girls, but it is a scary thing to put your child in someone’s care when you can see how incredibly busy they must be just with the “neuro-typical” kids. So far, I’ve been amazed at how much the teachers have loved on my kids and been proud of what they’ve accomplished together.

  127. Kelly Rehbein

    I wish for a teacher like you, who has been taught and has learned. You, represent the hope I have for my children and all children. May we all learn what it is to be the teachers our children need in this world. They have no limitations except in our ability to respond effectively to their needs. Ross Green I think says it best when he states, “Kids do well if they can do well.” But we the adults, can all do better.

  128. cricket

    I don’t know where to begin.

    You say that you knew a lot about autism and other special-needs conditions, yet it never occurred to you before now to communicate with parents more? What were you doing at those IEP meetings? Were you paying attention to their anguish then? Or were you like the majority of teachers in my children’s schools, who, despite knowing (or professing to know) that my kids are on IEPs, don’t bother to show up at team meetings?

    You meant well? The world is full of people who mean well. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. It’s the people who DO well for others who make a difference. We have a few teachers and staff members in our schools who try to do the right things, but often they are hamstrung by district politics. We have often been the recipients of whispered messages that start with “I’m not really supposed to tell you this but…”, such that even those good intentions have become tainted with the desire for self-preservation.

    Paralyzing fear? Screw that. Yes, I worry for my kids’ futures, and I bust my ass to make sure they do not want for anything that I can possibly provide, be it physical, spiritual, or emotional. But fear? Hell no. Don’t you ever forget, you people work for me, my taxes pay your salary, and if necessary, I will do whatever I can to get you removed if I think that you are not doing your duty.

    Maybe you’ll be able to play the professional-courtesy card and actually get the services your son deserves. Yes, it happens. If not, well, as you replied to another poster, your Dad’s a lawyer. Score another one for the home team. The cheapest decent attorney we could afford wanted a $2000 retainer, with no assurance on the outcome, because even if you prevail in the civil suit, then you often must fight (and pay) to have the judgement enforced. Try swinging that on a single salary.

    I sincerely hope that your son is able to do well in school, and in life generally. Our children have done as well as they have only because we (mostly my wife, actually, mine is the single salary in our household) have brow-beaten the schools, and the district, into providing those services that they agreed to provide. Our experience has shown that an IEP, considered by parents as an assurance of a minimum that must be met, is viewed by teachers, even well-intentioned ones such as yourself, as a maximum past which they need not go.

    Good luck living with yourself, and remember, that for as much as it may now suck to be you, unless you follow through on those commitments you laid out, it’s really gonna suck to he him.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author


      Good luck living with myself? Ouch. Clearly, you find me despicable. I’m sorry to hear that.

      It occurs to me that you are reading a lot more into my words than I actually stated. Furthermore, you also seem to be projecting on to me all of the obviously heartbreaking experiences you and your wife have endured in the quest to meet your child’s needs.

      I did not say that I ignored any child’s IEP. That is a legally binding document, and I have always honored whatever was required from that document. My stating that I meant well should not be interpreted as an admission that I did NOTHING for my students nor that I never felt compassion for the parents. With very few exceptions, I can state emphatically that most teachers DO care a great deal about their students and mean to do well by them.

      What I attempted to convey is that I was not previously capable of fully understanding the depth of those parents’ worries. I still stand by that statement. No one can understand another fully until one walks in their shoes. I get it now, and regret that I didn’t then. But that does not mean I sat around, willfully ingnoring my past students’ needs. I simply wasn’t as aware then of the complexity of their needs or that of their parents.

      As for my father being an attorney, I assure that doesn’t make ME any wealthier than you. I, too, am “swinging” a family of four on a single teacher’s salary. I drive a 10 year old car and contend with all of the financial demands inherent to having young children in need of daycare and multiple therapies. (I mentioned him being a lawyer as a joke, btw. I have never filed suit on anyone, nor do I have any current plans to do so.) So, thank you for paying my salary. I hope you are also appreciative of my paying for your social security, roadwork, police department, etc. We really are all in this together you know.

      I think you have a lot of anger. And I’m certain much of it is justified. But I don’t believe that I am your true target. I’m sorry that you have experienced the worst of the worst. There are phenomenal, caring teachers out there who go the distance every day. I work with them. And I try hard to be one of them. It isn’t easy, and there is undoubtably a lot of room for improvement in the public school system.

      I hope that things in your school district improve. I hope that your son does well and that his needs begin to be met. I wish you and your family all the best.


      1. cricket

        First off, no, I don’t find you despicable. I reserve that for people I know deserve it.

        That your post is pretty much anonymous though, and to parents in general, means that in reading it, I am able to apply your apology to my circumstances. If you feel that’s not fair, then you would probably have been better served by making personal apologies to those parents you really meant to address, and not making a public statement like this. You may have already done this, in which case I applaud your honesty and courage. But, you have made an apology to the Internet at large. There it is. And I have made a comment on it to the Internet at large. There that is too.

        Yes, my wife and I have had an extremely stressful time with our school district, to put it mildly. We’ve become better-educated, and I’ve no doubt become more cynical, because of that experience.

        I’m glad that you feel some regret, but not for the reasons you may think. I’m not wishing you pain, there’s enough of that that comes with raising children with any sort of challenge outside of what’s considered the norm. The only time I think that regret is useful, is when it used as a driver to change the thing that caused the regret in the first place. So let that regret drive your desire to change your approach to your craft (having taught a little bit privately myself, I appreciate that good teachers are artists in their own right). Let that regret drive how you push your colleagues to improve their craft.

        With a relative in the legal profession, though, I beg to differ, that does make you better off than most of the rest of us, if only because you have a direct personal contact in the legal field, which is a place many of us are forced to go without any guidance. If you have that resource, I’d expect you to use it. I sure would.

        Yes, we are all in this together. You do contribute to my Social Security, and we all contribute our property taxes pay for our roads, police and firefighters, not to mention our schools. But I stand by my statement, not directed at you personally, since we most likely don’t live in the same community, but if I felt strongly enough that my children’s teachers were not doing their jobs in helping my children to learn, or worse, were a detriment to their learning by either willful neglect or incompetence, I would have no problem taking whatever action I could to at least remove them from the immediate sphere of influence around my children. If that action resulted in termination, then so be it.

        I want this to be my last comment on this thread, unless someone addresses me directly. Clearly, even though other parents seem to have some of the same experiences that my wife and I have had, they have not had nearly as visceral a reaction as I did.

        In parting, though, I would also challenge you to post your continued progress on your commitments to change on your blog. You’ve offered an apology, and offered to improve your craft. Now, follow through.

  129. Kathi Payne

    We are all only human and do the best we are able. I am a mother of a non-verbal daughter whom has CP. Teaching her to communicate was the one goal on her IEP I too pushed for.

  130. Lisa Ann Setchel

    I feel immense gratitude reading that. For the teachers we have had along the way and knowing that there are so many people out there that feel the exact same way that I do. Beautifully written and expressed. THANK YOU !

  131. jennifer

    My son was not diagnosed with Aspbgers till he was 11. He has had AD/HD since he was 5. I have had many battles with the school over his education over the past 6 years. I found the more educated I became the more I realized how the staff really didn’t care about my child and what would work best for him. We had a major incident at his school a month ago that was totally unacceptable, regardless of him having a disability or not. He is now in a private school. I resisted moving him for several years because he did deserve a “free education” like all children. His public school received 20,000 a year from the state to help educate him. , unfortunately that money does not travel with the student in our state. He has continuously been disciplined for his behaviors that are a result of his disability. I am very happy to say he did have one teacher who got him and truly helped him. I hope he has a long career of helping other children who deserve it. To all the other “Mr Stevens” of the teaching world thank you!!!
    My best advise is educate yourselves on your children disability every day and never second guess your feelings on what is truly best for your child.

  132. Pingback: Loving my special (needs) child « Pieces of Randomness

  133. Em

    Can so definitely relate to this. I even taught in a special school and thought I ‘got it’ that I empathised with the parents! I didn’t anywhere near enough. I feel sick at the thought of my profoundly disabled child going to school in a few years. How can anyone else look after him as well as I can? I wish I had done more for the parents of the children I had taught.

  134. Mrs. Cricket

    I am Cricket’s wife. We have three in Sped. How are we functioning together as parents, providers and educators? It’s like being a sun and refusing to shine. It’s like being alive and refusing to breathe. It’s like a banquet of food and refusing to eat. It’s sleepwalking in misery and saying the dream is ok. It’s a carnival in hell. It’s popular yet forbidden; a habitual expected response. 
    I tried so hard to make it work in the schools. I reached out, used every compassionate bone I had. I cannot make them follow the IEP. They finally got the books on tape, it took five years. Now they refuse to put it in action. One small thing of many. We cannot afford representation and they know it. It is like having a door slammed in my face. They are like COrn Holio saying, “this is stupid.” 

    This is NOT about blame this is about our anguish and the need for cooperation but in order to get to a better place, the crap is going to have to hit the fan. The authentic issues will have to be unearthed and each of us will have to say the truth and see things we do not want in order to get to that better place. We need the entire DOE to apologize and work with us. Sounds so idealistic? Who is willing? Not my kid’s team. They confide in person to me but at the team meetings
    remain silent.   

    I am way to tired (three in sped) to try and get services. I use my energy to educate our kids now. I realized we could do it ourselves  by home schooling or spend my energy fighting.  It makes my blood boil. The legal binding document is not being honored and there is nothing I can do but write letters and call PQA. Nothing works but fear, how sad. I wish I was a lawyer.  I try to focus on teaching nouns and pronouns, the times table, remembering the sentence read 1 minute previously. 

    The measure of success  will be equal to the commitment we make together. 
    I have invited all the teams to positively work together. I will no longer chase them down, I do not have time.  I am now mom, teacher, OT, speech therapist, psychologist. Namaste. 

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      I’m really sorry that you have had such a hard time in your public school system. I can only imagine that I would feel the same way in your shoes.

      I don’t begin to know what to say in return. I don’t know how public education will begin to improve with regard to its special needs students. It certainly doesn’t seem to be a priority in my state either. There are times that I think seriously about relocating to another state. It’s a depressing thing to think about leaving friends and family behind simply in order to secure better schooling for my son.

      Best wishes to you and your family, Mrs. Cricket.

  135. Becky Cooper (@fabbecky)

    I would like to say – as someone who has a preschooler with an IEP AND is a Special Education / Childhood Education / History Education (yes three areas) student right now – some of the teacher training is better. Not all of it by any means, but some of it.

  136. tarotworldtour

    There are multiple layers of understanding and revelation when teaching. There will always be the hindsight realization of methods that could have improved each situation. Furthermore, a teacher cannot be everywhere simultaneously and working 60 hours a week. However, addressing this and communicating stimulates us all to be more cognizant of what we are doing.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      That is true. And time for meeting individual needs of students is being stolen every day by increased data entry, testing, and silly paperwork. Teaching is not what it used to be.

  137. Cathy Elliott Jones

    Thank you for this post. It has certainly gone viral on my facebook page! I am a lawyer and the mother of a now 17-year-old ASD son. Because I knew what appropriate interventions he required, and possessed the legal acumen to demand that he receive them, he is doing very well in his junior year of high school. In attending IEPs to advocate for other children and their parents, there are two things that irritate me the most. One is the Coordinated Cheerleaders on the IEP team, usually led by a clueless program specialist who chirps, “That’s gre-at!” as the rest tell us how well the child is doing, despite evaluations and test scores staring us in the face that indicate the opposite. The second is the ongoing claim that “teachers aren’t trained.” Inclusion has been the law of the land since the IDEA was passed in 1975; in the 36 ensuing years, what earthly excuse is there for general education teachers to not have “been trained” in accommodating different learning styles in their classrooms? I don’t care if it takes a one-to-one, full-time aide, an iPad, and three partridges in a pear tree; if they enable a child to succeed in a classroom with typically developing peers, the law requires them. Public schools, teachers, and unions better wise up, and soon, or they will collectively find themselves following the Do-Do bird into extinction.

    1. Laura Holgate

      AMEN! I have had to fight for my son for 10 years now…if it weren’t for me, he wouldn’t be reading. They told me he would NEVER read. I worry about those who don’t want to fight or don’t know how. I am so sick of being dismissed in my gut feelings about my son. If the teachers had special ed kids, they would not say half the things they say to me.

    2. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Cathy, as a teacher I can confirm that no one is training regular ed teachers in how to meet these kids needs. Instead, districts spend a great deal of time ordering mandatory tech training for data entry, testing software, etc. But I have never received any training in how to help kids with specific learning needs. Learning styles are one thing. Methods to teach autistic children, those with severe ADHD, etc.? That’s something else entirely. In fact, it wasn’t even part of my program in college. What I know about special-needs, I have read and researched myself. But that doesn’t equal what I could learn from an expert coming in to train and answer my questions. Teachers, as a whole, I believe are very aware of what we aren’t getting and are often frustrated that we don’t receive training that is actually useful. I would have to say that school districts, unions, colleges of education, and states aren’t listening to any of us.

  138. Joan Medlen

    Dear Mrs. Merryday,

    You have written a very heart-felt and powerful apology. I understand that this is an epiphany for you. Your son and your students – from this point forward – will benefit from it. That’s good.

    My comment is, like yours, about the big picture.

    What is it that allows teachers to think they truly Get It and yet fail us at every turn? We had some amazing teachers. But when we looked back over 21 years of FAPE, we found that Early Intervention was good (for what they knew at the time), Preschool was great – inclusive even! But for K-21? I think we counted a grand total of 3 good years. There were many teachers who meant well. There were more specialists who were more concerned with proving they knew more than me and Putting Me In My Place than they did my child’s success.

    For me, the question is this: Why does it take actually being a parent of a child who is Vulnerable (nonverbal is a very different sort of vulnerable) for teachers/special education specialists to “Get It”?

    Real person-centered communication about a student is absolutely essential as you now share. But you know what else it is? Good Customer Service.

    Teachers – all teachers – have a very tough job. I come from a family filled with them. In fact, my Mother had one of the first early intervention classrooms in our state back in the 60’s. I was fortunate to be involved with her students – to play with them, take them sledding, and have them as babysitters (How cool it was to have a baby sitter who would take her eye out if we went to bed on time!). I didn’t know then that I was learning essential skills to be a parent of one of my own children.

    More than that, those lessons taught me to be a Good Person. To *value* all people. Regardless of ability. I didn’t have to have a child with a disability to learn that. I only needed someone to Model the Expected Behavior.

    I applaud you for coming to this place in your life journey. It doesn’t really matter how you got there. You Arrived. And that is a good thing.

    What do we need to do to help principals, teachers and specialists understand that by not Arriving, they are bullies.

    In the end, that’s the deal. By not communicating, not paying attention to the values of the family and student, by not seeing out their voice in every situation, the people in power are bullies. They may have good intentions, and good hearts, and be trying to be good people, but the end result is that they are bullies.

    How do we change that?

    How do we change that in a system that is bullying them (the teachers)?

    I wish for you more than three good years of school. I wish for you to never be called to come get your child and find him locked, alone, in a bathroom (which when you backward chain the sequence was for more than an hour). I wish for you that you never walk into a classroom to pick up your child for private therapy (a regular, scheduled pick up time) to find him restrained, unsupervised in a chair being poked by other students who are convinced he can talk if they poke at him enough. I wish for you that your son never knows so much stress that he rips your hair out by the hand fulls when you pick him up from school or hits his head on the hood of the car to let you know he’s frustrated (just to have people tell you they have no idea what the problem is and it must be all about You.)

    It’s a scary world at school. Even scarier when you can’t tell your Mom what happened. But you’ll know. He’ll find a way.

    As a teacher – you will be the minority. Do a good job. Use your knowledge well.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      There certainly is a great deal of bullying in the public school system. Teachers have an impossible job and are thwarted at every turn.

      And I do hope that I don’t have any of the awful experiences you just described. I still believe that most teachers try very hard to do their jobs well. I’m hoping that this country will wake up and fight against the conditions teachers are working under that prevent them from doing the most for our kids.

      Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

      Best wishes.

      1. Joan Medlen

        Teachers *do* try to do their job well.

        Even those I consider bullies from my son’s point of view are typically well intentioned, good teachers. It’s the nonverbal component that makes it bully like. The level of real listening that must happen for a student who does not speak and has emerging communication (or fragile communication) is not often possible in a school setting. So even the best intentioned and the best efforts can be received as bullying from the student’s point of view.

        your son is young, so it’s perhaps not evident to you that the communication partner (the receiver of your son’s communication – nonverbal, using AAC device, etc) is the key to his belief that he has something to say. When at home, I imagine you are a responsive and great communication partner. But teachers in general ed cannot provide that level of listening. To a person who needs others to get their point across, that 1-way directive communication begins to feel like bullying over the years.

        In the current funding situations and overall climate, I’m not sure there’s a good solution.

        I always believed that even the people I worked to have “retired” or fired didn’t go to school saying, “I’m going to ruin a kids life today.”

        The trouble is, this ineffective education system has a drastic and dramatic effect on the quality life life for families and future adults with disabilities.

        To me, that is the big disconnect. Teachers mean to do their job well. but the difference between general ed and special ed isn’t the forms – it’s the effect on lifetime outcome. Both are huge influences. But with special education, lack of aggressive, creative, interactive education and communication that is in partnership with the home environment can be the difference between being employable and needing comprehensive services at the end of their time in FAPE.

        Good luck!

  139. Jergy

    This is a very insightful blog. As a Special Education teacher, I can understand what everyone is writing. I was also a Special Education parent before I became a Special Education teacher. Over the years, my daughter only had one teacher that really cared about her as a person, not just an IEP, not just another one of those “kids”. It was hard as a parent sitting at that table listening to everyone talk about my daughter as if she was just another problem. I vowed then that I would never be that way.

    I work hard to see my “kids” as mine, become personally involved with them and use the IEP as a tool, not just another piece of paper. It is very hard to MAKE the regular educators understand and modify and do what they are legally obligated to do. It was as a parent and it is just as hard as a teacher. I don’t know of a district that understands and cares, I wish I did, I would love to work with them. If I hear one more time, “they could do it if they wanted to,” I think I will scream, but I won’t, I will just keep trying to help the student, help the parents and help myself.

    I keep in touch with many of my ‘kids” long after they have graduated. I relish and love hearing about their accomplishments and what they are doing. They have become my family as have their parents and siblings. To all the Special needs teachers out there, take a minute, take a moment and let them, the kids, enhance your life, they will!

  140. spryngtree

    Would it be okay to print this blog post and hand it out to the teachers at my son’s school? He goes to a wonderful public school with teachers that I know have sincerely cared about him and who treat him with love and respect. However, communication has been a constant issue in the four years he’s been there, and now my younger son is starting at the same school with the same special ed issues.

  141. Pat Ewers

    I worked in the public schools for six years working with children with moderate disablilites, behavior disorders and two of those years ,as a one on one aid to a child with autism and I must say I was indeed in awe of this young man…His name was Jared and what a fascinating child, and extremely high functioning..I believe most of his classmates were taken with his intelligence…he could test better than most of his classmates and gave great oral reports, we worked closely together on daily assignments…I found that starting the day with his homework in hand made for a better start to the day…I would always come to school early just in case his mom had a hard time with him the night before completing his homework, and we would go the LRC and sit and work on what was not completed…Learning and watching his signals for a “break” are key and I was able to work out a signal with the classroom teacher if he needed to leave the classroom for some “down” time…I would quietly ask him if he wanted to take a walk down the hall with me, get a drink, or just run around in the gym for a few minutes seemed to help regain his focus in the classroom…I miss working with that young man..tHis family moved to Utah after 5th grade…he worked hard to surprise his mom at a Xmas concert, by memorizing his lines of a poem being presented that evening…His mom and grandma were in the audience that evening and I remember the tears and joy on their face, as he approached the microphone and flawlessly presented his few lines..That was truly my best gift that Xmas…Making a difference in that young mans life and enabling him to show the world all his special gifts.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      I taught a young man similar to this one for two years in a row. He will always have a special place in my heart. They are unique, aren’t they?

  142. Pam Andrews

    I am so overwhelmed right now I cannot even finish reading this because I am at work, but – THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! You said all the things I needed to hear. The stories I could tell, from refusing to follow his IEP to downright abuse…. My son is 21 now and seriously struggling. I still feel that if the school had made an effort (any effort!), it could have made a huge difference in his life. There certainly were a couple of wonderful teachers – and he flourished in their classrooms – with very little in accommodations, but for the most part, it was pretty bad. Thank you for this.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      You are very welcome. And thanks for taking the time to respond. I’m sorry to hear of your son’s experiences. I do wish the both of you the best.

  143. Kim

    Thank you to the author of this letter. Good luck on your journey and God Bless you and your child.
    A Parent of a Special-Needs Child

  144. Valentina Cardinalli

    Dear Teacher,

    My sister is profoundly deaf, sign dependant. Deafness is interesting because many hearing people assume that a deaf person is exactly the same as a hearing person, except they can’t hear. Where allowances are made for those who are mentally challenged, deaf people get “Well, why can’t they do that? They are just deaf!” it takes a lot more to understand each and every special needs child as an individual, and know the ways to make their own kinds of personal success attainable to them, as individuals.

    My whole life I felt “held back” a bit by things our family couldn’t do. Things that I was able to do, but my sister was not.

    I feel that the public school system does this same thing to children without special needs. In our big-hearted attempt to include everybody, we are actually cutting many programs like a science fair, drama classes, public speaking, creative writing competitions, academic awards etc. One of the reasons for this is that we want to include everybody, so the kids without special needs are actually being forgotten, and they are the majority.

    In the past, there was a special education instructor who was able to study more about each individual childs needs and abilities. Now we have one homeroom teacher who is given an afternoon class (while the rest of the class gets a sub for the day) to learn everything about downs syndrome or autism, or whatever. How can this teacher, with a class of 30 children, each one at a different academic and social level, become an expert in your childs needs in one afternoon? It seems unfair to everybody, especially the child who has challenges. We have been told that special education classrooms “stigmatises” children, and that’s why they do not exist anymore. I feel that a child with special needs in a regular classroom setting is actually more stigmatised. They are truly suffering.

    No one teaches the students about the individual special needs of your child, there just isn’t time to fit this in. Children are told “just treat them like everybody else.” This is poppycock. Children with special needs aren’t like everyone else. They have, and will continue to have a harder time with certain things in life. That’s the truth. No system in the world can fix that.

    Children without special needs need to be focusing on their work, not the distractions and limitations (and successes!) of special needs students. Teachers as well.

    This is not to say I don’t adore the children who have special needs! I do! There is one boy with slight downs who is so sweet, and I’m helping him with a play he wants to write (I am a parent volunteer by the way. Although I AM a teacer of art and drama, there isn’t any funding anymore for me, so I work for free.) I’m just saying that he NEEDS A PLACE TO GO, away from other students who feel frusterated with the system, and take it out on him. Not for the whole day, just when he needs it. There are many activities he can participate in, gym, art etc. but it is cruel to put this child over his head academically and in uncomfortable social situations daily.

    I move that in public schools, we get a room for children with special needs staffed by two people who must have completed more training than just an afternoon class. In my childs school there are 150 students, about 12-15 have diagnosed special needs (more are undiagnosed). While I would love it if there was an individual for each of these children on a daily basisis to stand by each child and help them throughout the entire day, our government has decreed that they’d rather spend the money elsewhere (building prisons). This is terribly unfair, but given the limitations of funding, the only reasonable solution is re-establishing special education classrooms with AT LEAST two highly trained individuals. One individual would always be in the “quiet room” while the other could act as a “runner” bringing the children to various activities within the regular classrooms.

    This would offer a tremendous amount of freedom. Currently, children with special needs are “stuck” in a certain grade level, when they are in grade 7 and the gr 4s are making a paper mache project, wouldn’t some of them rather do that than sit miserably at their desks while a peer gets incresingly angry because they have been partnered with them and are unable to complete an assignment?

    There are some children with special needs who would rarely need to be in the Special Education/Quiet room at all. Others might spend the majority of their time there. It is only when the child is unhappy or proving to be distracting to the other students that this room would be a safe, secure unjudgemental place for them to go.

    Speaking about a Special Education classroom has become very unpolitically correct. If you mention that you think this might work again (with more sensitivity and understanding than in the past) Instantly someone says “You hate all kids with special needs!”–I feel it is the opposite. I care SO MUCH about these children that I’m sick of seeing them suffer.

    I am also sick of seeing my son punched, distracted and frusterated. I feel sorry for teachers who, when they started teaching, did not sign on for these types of issues and don’t have the training or (sometimes) the desire for it. When they voice their concerns about their classrooms it does not seem to matter. Honestly, I thought of getting my teaching degree, but the system has made the job of teaching in a public school impossible and, quite frankly, terribly unappealing. It has nothing to do with the money or the benefits (those are quite good as they are) it has to do with the ability for them to do a good job, being fair and kind to each individual person in their classroom. I will not join a system where this has become impossible.

    Does anyone else see a better solution, given the budget restrictions?

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      You have a lot of valid points.

      I, too, have often wished that I could speak to the other students in the class about a special-needs child. But I am prohibited from doing so due to privacy laws. Right now, for example, I have an autistic child in a class I’m teaching. He is not the easiest child. Despite being high academically, he does a lot to disrupt the class — and the rest of the kids want to know why.

      I’m not allowed to explain. So they miss an opportunity to learn. For this reason, I plan to visit my son’s classroom, should he end up in standard classes in the future. I think that helps to nip problems in the bud.

      Thanks for taking the time to make such a thoughtful reply.

  145. Valentina Cardinalli

    I have noticed a few spelling mistakes in my post. I guess I should have checked my spelling via the computer. It’s never been a strength of mine, having dyslexia. It doesn’t stop me from writing, however!!!

  146. Pingback: An Apology From Your Child’s Former Teacher by Flappiness Is… | Special Living Today

  147. Don Jordan

    This is what happens when politicians control education. Conservatives who could care less about quality of education are practicing mind control in our public schools. It started in Texas with central book supply, went on to include identical course syllabus, and now standardized testing. Why are Conservatives afraid of teachers and their dedication to education? Its as though an educated citizen is their biggest enemy.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      I think your point about politicians controlling education is true enough.

      But I wouldn’t characterize conservatives as being anti-education. I know a lot of folks on both sides of the political spectrum who both teach and support teachers.

      Just my two cents…

  148. T Delka

    I totally get all of your fears! May I add that if you are blessed to have a teachers aide with your child, remember that person.Most parents don’t get that an aide is your childs primary care giver/teacher.A good aide is the invisible person that is behind your childs accomplishments.So the next time you see your child’s aide…acknowledge them by name and thank them for the wonderful job they are dong with your child.An aide knows your child better than anyone, because they are with them every day!

    Have you thanked your child’s aide today? :)

  149. Sarah

    I am an Early Childhood Special Education teacher (ages 2-5) in the public school system. I do not have children of my own and I understand that puts me at a disadvantage for fully understanding what the parents of my students need from me. I love each and every student that comes my way. During Open House, every school year I tell the parents that I am willing and wanting to have open communication with them. I give my email address, read & respond to notes sent in their folders, and can accept phone calls daily from 2-2:30 and will schedule conferences whenever it is requested. I get very little response from most parents. I have attempted to have communication notebooks, but there is no way I can write a detailed report of each child’s daily activities… there is not nearly enough time. I would much rather have a parent send me an email every day asking about their child’s day than hear nothing.
    Also, just as a note: most special education teachers love their students and are willing to work with parents on communication and IEP development, but PLEASE don’t bring an advocate or an ABA therapist to a meeting who is going to treat the teachers/school as the enemy, unless that year’s teacher is really not doing his/her job for your child. I have been shocked at the way teachers have been talked to/treated (myself included) at even initial IEP meetings. I’m all for advocating for your child, but there is no reason to assume the school is not going to do right by your family before they even start services.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      I agree that teachers should be given the benefit of the doubt, unless they prove themselves to be deficient. I guess some parents have had such awful experiences that they simply want to skip over that and ENSURE that their child’s needs are met. I also have had plenty of students whose parents cannot be contacted, don’t return phone calls, etc. It’s really sad and frustrating. And you’re right about there not being enough time. There isn’t.

      Thanks for your perspective, Sarah.

  150. Devoted ASD Teacher

    I can appreciate what you wrote. And i agree that there are teacher out there that fall into the behaviors you spoke about in this blog. However, I am a teacher of students with autism. My students are considered LOW functioning and need the most support from me and my staff. I am not a parent of a child with autism and I don’t pretend to know what it is about and what they are going through. I do try to be the best teacher to their child as I possibly can. I COMMUNICATE on a daily basis with all my parent, and some NEVER communicate back to me. Being that most of my students are non-verbal I know that SOME my parents want to hear about their student’s day.

    I guess I am writing this comment to say that not all teacher need to say sorry! Some do….yes!!! However, I go to work every day and give my students 110% of myself and I try to give the parent what they need and so often I feel like parents look at the school district or teacher as the bad guy!!! I am not! I LOVE MY STUDENTS DEARLY, and do everything I can to stay up to date on all the current ASD research.

    I don’t want to be negative about what you wrote! But I feel that this blog validates those parents that feel I’m or my district is the “bad guy” I appreciate you recognizing your wrongs but not all Special Ed. teacher need to say sorry. If I could change one thing about what you wrote it would be the title, An Apology from Me, a Former Teacher of Special Needs.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Dear Devoted,
      I appreciate your concern about feeling special-needs teachers are mischaracterized. But that letter was from me and was not written in the name of anyone else. My entire point was that I now have an understanding that I wasn’t previously capable of. I would never suggest that ALL teachers need to apologize for anything.

      And, to clarify, I am NOT a special-needs teacher. I am regular ed. And, as you know, regular ed teachers so often don’t have much training in meeting the needs of our special-ed kids who enter our classrooms as part of inclusion. That’s what I felt bad about. I am well-aware that there are wonderful special-ed teachers out there who are both well-tained and dedicated. Clearly, you are one of them. I am also still currently teaching, though now I spend most of my day as a library media specialist.

      Thanks for sharing your own experience. I am hoping to get a teacher for Callum that is equally dedicated.

  151. Dr. Gary Sweeten

    We did a yearlong research study with the parents of severely disabled kids. the lack of Listening Skills among most professionals is a big problem. When I was preparing to teach I had been through not a single hour of listening skills. Yet, listening has been found to be the key skill for teachers to understand kids and parents.

    We are currently designing programs to train people how to support the parents and care givers. We are not training Advocates who are angry and blaming the schools and agencies but people who can help the parents get organized, write down their questions and writ the school’s answers, listen to the parents and pray for them.

  152. Yonatan

    WOW!! I come at this from a whole different perspective. I am an LD student living with my Learning Differences and now a Special Education teacher. I hesitate to read files until after I meet a student. I liked that fact that I was a person before the abilities or lack thereof that I might have. This is the same attitude I take to all my students and will always take.

    1. Linda

      I,too, waited to read my spec ed students’ folders. That way I formed my own opinion about them, not having someone else influencing me.

  153. shaz

    This made me cry,an is absolutely spot on,especially down too the communication with parents,i have a child with specail needs,dont get me wrong the teachers are fab,but they dont really ommunicate with me,dont really tell me how hes going on,where hes going right,where hes going wrong. A huge pat on the back to you,its just a shame that more teachers arent like this.

  154. Mariam

    My sister just told me, when she went to her sons class for a meeting …. The teacher had long large socks filled with sand wrapped around her sons neck to make him sit still!! & not run around :((
    I can’t stop crying! I wouldn’t even treat an animal like that!!! :(

    1. karen

      Ummm…That is a heavy bag…a way to apply deep pressure, which is calming to a child. It stimulated the proprioceptive system. I doubt they were wrapped around his neck in a way that applied pressure to his throat, but were probably draped over his shoulders. I have a student who will put his own heavy bag on when he sits down…he craves the pressure it applies on him.

  155. Katie

    Thank you so very much for this post. I am openly weeping for so many reasons: Your keen understanding of how a parent of a non-verbal child feels, the dead on description of a special needs parent’s mentality (particularly “THE WORRY”), joy and relief to read of an educator who sees the light, albeit due to her own personal pain. My feelings of reciprocal empathy to you in your current situation.
    My oldest son is high-functioning Asperger’s. He is very bright, but was socially so inept; he was always in mainstreamed situations, and suffered terrible bullying, and every year I tried to inform his new teacher of his deficits, armed with my printed out info on the Autism Spectrum, and ask that he be a bit protected- to no avail. Some of the teachers openly disliked him. It was heart wrenching.
    My younger son is severely autistic; non-verbal, OCD behaviors, the whole deal. He has a wonderful staff and for that I am eternally grateful. But the lingering fear of what he can’t tell me remains.
    My sister three boys: all autistic. Two of them FRATERNAL twins. She battles the powers that be every step of the way in her school system
    So as you can see, there isn’t a single aspect of your description of the parental journey that I haven’t experienced.
    Did I say thank you for writing this? :)
    I hope for your son the very best of what life can give. I suspect with you as his Mom, he’ll do pretty darned well. You’re a gem of a lady.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Katie.

      Our son is showing signs of being a bit on the milder end of the spectrum, but only time will tell. Regardless, I am hoping he gets wonderful teachers like so many mentioned by other readers.

      Best wishes to you and the five ASD kids in your life. I bet they are all equally lucky to have you.

      1. Katie

        I’m so happy to hear that your guy is on the milder side. My older son, though he has had major trials to come to where he is today, is doing well; working at a pet shop and going to the local University to become a veterinarian. I know your little guy will thrive. He and you and all of the less lucky ones will be in my prayers.

  156. Michele

    Wow! Thank you – I only wish this was coming from MY son’s teacher. I am a pediatric PT working in early intervention for years and have done my best to encourage & support the families I have worked with during their transitions to school but never fully understood what lay before them since that is often where our paths parted. I am learning now the extent of the challenges they face. Although my family is dealing with a different diagnosis (ADHD as opposed to ASD), I am now having to deal with a teacher / school system that just “doesn’t get it.” I may send this to her – but I doubt she’ll read it. She doesn’t seem to be interested in the information that I have tried to share & seems to believe his accomadations (504 in a typical class but no IEP) are troublesome (by that I mean she seems like she doesn’t want to be bothered with implementing them)

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      I’m sorry to hear that, Michelle. I haven’t yet experienced that kind of frustration. I hope this year flies by for your son and that he gets a great teacher next year.

    2. Dad of Two

      I’m not sure what a 504 is, but an IEP comes with certain rights for the parents and the child. One of those rights (at least in Illinois where I live) is for the parents to be able to call a meeting if they have concerns about their child’s education. It can be called for academic or non-academic reasons. We’ve had to call a special meeting only once. If the teacher isn’t doing what you think needs to be done, don’t be afraid to go over his or her head.

  157. Jutta Walters

    As the mother of a child with Auditory Processing disorder, Cognitive disorder and Anxiety disorder – thank you. I thoroughly appreciate post. I do carry that enormous binder and I have even pasted a picture of my daughter on the front to remind teachers that it is a child we are talking about, not a number or an IEP or a 504. My child was a number when she lived in an orphanage. I did not bring her home to be one here.
    Thank you again.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      I may steal that idea for my binder. Though I worry I’ll be needing to roll it around on wheels before too long.

      Best wishes to you and your precious girl. I’m glad that you found each other.

  158. Susan

    This post really touched my heart. I taught students with autism in a cross-categorical special education class for five years and have a master’s degree in special education. My students with autism taught me so much, and they are so dear to me. They teach you in college that parents are all in different places of the grieving process when they come into IEP meetings. I can’t imagine what it must be like to sit on the other side of that table, even if you’re aware of where your kid is functioning. Having my own baby has given me more compassion for parents, even the ones who were nasty and demanding when their kids were in my class. I was so thankful for parents who worked with me, though. I think it’s great that you’re allowing Callum’s situation to educate you and make you a better teacher.

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thank you, Susan. That’s exactly how I felt with our first child, who is neurotypical. Suddenly, being a mother made me see parents in a different light. Afterwards, that perspective grew with our son.

      As you already know, we DO have to keep improving ourselves as teachers. As one of my colleagues always says, “The day I am the best I’m going to be is the day I need to retire.”

      Thanks again.

  159. Kellan

    This post almost makes me want to work in administration, just so I could require my staff to attend a talk by a special needs parent. Almost, but not quite.

    I have experience in teaching high school and in working with kids birth to three, and you’re right–no teacher understands what a parent needs until she’s been there.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post, and thanks for starting to navigate that murky water between parents and teachers.

  160. Christina

    I wish every teacher would read this message. I have stressed to so many teachers in the past and present to work with us. We can work together, help each other. Please, if a parent makes a suggestion, be open to it, be willing to adapt to new ways of teachings and ideas. Do not feel insulted or take offense. They are our children, we have them day in and day out. We know what works for them and what doesn’t. “We” Parents are also open to new ideas and ways to help our children. We want what is best for our kids! Just don’t give up on them. Also, just because if one teacher can’t get them to do their work it does not mean that they do not know how to do the work, they may just not do the work for you! So that just means you may need to find a new way to reach them.

    So really, be accepting to new ideas.

  161. emmasnewgroove

    I stumbled across your blog from your freshly pressed page, I don’t have any experience of special needs children in my own family but nonetheless I found many of your posts really honest and interesting. Especially this post about teaching special needs children. I teach at a private school in Vietnam and I have a boy in my class who I think has some sort of autism spectrum disorder, well, I’m pretty sure he does, The local teachers and teaching assistant just told me he was ‘strange’, I have never met his parents and he gets no extra support. It’s hard to deal with considering I’ve had no training and have 20 other 8 year olds in the class. Your post has made me much more self aware, thank you,

  162. Cheryl Huelsman

    My daughter was finally given an official diagnoses of autism. She is five and is basically non verbal but just recently started saying some words,not just babble. She is adopted and she is a former micro preemie, born at just 23 weeks gestation.

  163. CarolSue Baird

    I just reread this and can not help being emotional. My then 5 yo daughter did the worst thing possible to our small rural school district. She went to school nervous, anxious, non-verbal and ready to learn. This put “their” heads in a smog. They never saw a child like her before. They didnt know what to do. So, before a meager attempt at a 504 plan to cover their abuse, they (principal and admin.) bullied her. The teacher and psychologist were her angels.

    Now, my daughter has the best teacher money could buy- ME. We homeschool our daughter who has Selective Mutism.

    We still must go thru this school, whom we are suing, for permission to homeschool, to submit quarterly reports, and for my daughter to be tested.

    I wish I took this idea and wrote an apology to my child. Her father and I saw all the signs but couldn’t put two plus two together untils shewas five.

    When we realized what her dx was, it was like looking at her for the first time and really seeing her. We look back now and go, oh my, it all makes sense now.

    Again, thank you for this letter, from a parent’s stand point of one who dealt with the frustration, educating the educators, bringing them information, and begging them to understand her needs, etc… Thank You.

  164. Lorraine

    Thank you for this. I have a son who is an aspie now in college. I got him through but now I have a different challenge. I have adopted a child with reactive attachment disorder. My son is also in a wheelchair because he was born without legs. He is also very, very tiny. Partially as the result of an eating disorder and partially genetics. Sadly so many teachers see his wheelchair and his small size and feel pity. I try to explain that his other issues, the result of six and half years of institutionalization or more difficult though invisible. They don’t understand that I know more about my son’s conditions than they do. I have been his mother for five years. I tell them that he will test, he will try to find subtle ways to break the rules. If he gets away with this, “tricking the teachers” he then decides that number one they are stupid, and number two they cannot be trusted to keep him safe because, well see number one. Therefore he will not listen to or respect or trust them for the rest of the year. He will lie to them, maybe steal from them, lie about them, refuse to do his best work. If however the teacher does not allow themselves to be tricked by him, he will respect them, and trust them to keep him safe so he can concentrate on his work I explain and explain, but they don’t get it. If he doesn’t put his name on a paper in fifth grade, they feel sorry for him and ignore it they are showing him that they cannot be trusted. When he asks to go to the restroom over and over and over again and stays there for 20 minutes, and the teachers allow it they are showing him they can’t be trusted. They think they are being nice. They think that perhaps it takes longer or that his physical condition perhaps makes him take longer. I explain to them that he does not go more often or take any longer than other kids, in fact he rolls faster than most kids walk, and he actually goes less often than most kids (the eating disorder) Other kids tell me how when they go to the restroom they see my son playing in the bathroom. Of they will see him go down to the bathroom and get a drink of water and play around and talk to people but never go into the bathroom. He will steal from other kids or cheat at games or even on tests and then pretend he didn’t know better. Even though he is the size of a four year old he is 11 a year older than most of his classmates and he knows full well what he is doing. He is again testing the teachers and the teachers fail. He comes home and has huge melt downs from feeling so unsafe all day long. If teachers listen to parents they can learn a lot about that kid. Even if the parent didn’t get a degree in Education, they often know more about their particular child and that child’s condition. I wish more teachers understood that and listened. Yes, some parents are trying to get special treatment and see the children as perfect little angels who can do no wrong, but you can sort those out if you listen. Sorry, needed to vent about that.

  165. Gordon Hurd

    In a word, IEP’s “sucked”. Took me until 11th grade of having them before anyone would listen to me. In fact most the time I was not involved (told to wait in the hall), I had to fight to be included in the meetings yet alone participate and be listened too. They did teach me that a few well placed F-bombs in front of your mother, teachers, guidance counselor, and special ed coordinator for the county gets attentions. And only because I wanted out of the “program” because I was sick of be treated differently for being normal and not a cookie cutter brain washed kid. I hope that when Jessi and I start a family that we do not have to go thru the same thing, but i realize there is a very good chance we will. As an adult that was humiliated with the title of “special” as a child I will ensure that my children are treated with the respect they deserve. As for why I wanted to be removed from special education; two parts one if you can’t pick a reason for why I am in the program so you change it each year maybe you have missed something. Two I refused to have a stigma attached to me for the rest of my life. Thinking back I did have a few teachers that treated me normal, and I truly believe it was because of the special needs of their own children. Those teachers did not see me as a special needs/special education student, but just a student equal to my peers. The truth is in those classes (normal ed) I was able to excel.

  166. Jennifer

    I have never read an entire blog in one evening, but tonight I may be adding that to my ‘Done it’ list. I cannot stop.This is the best blog I have ever come across. I feel like someone has typed all of my thoughts and feelings into WordPress. This post made me bawl like a baby.

  167. Bridget

    This is one of the most amazing posts I have ever read. I believe they have captured everyone of my fears. Our family is so blessed to know that Our daughters Teachers etc. loves her for her and knows how amazing she is. Even though our daughter has no verbal communication…everyone knows and loves her. We are so blessed to know she is not just and IEP. This also made me cry and smile at the same time.

  168. Teresa (Embracing the Spectrum)

    I’m a special ed teacher and my son will start Kindergarten next school year. He can’t tell me what he did all day, even though he’s not nonverbal, so it scares me too. I advocate for my students and communicate with parents as much as I can, but I know it may not be enough for them…and I understand completely.

    This was a great post!

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      Thanks, Teresa. Our speech therapist told me that our son is not technically non-verbal since he has a few words. But those words are inconsistently used and not used a great deal, so I considered him nonverbal. Like your son, he can’t tell me what happened in his day.

      It is scary.
      P.S. I added your blog to my blogroll.

  169. JAKfl73

    Your blog is great! As a teacher of children ages 3 to 5 with special needs in the public school system, your words reminded me how important communication is and what kind of teacher I strive to be for both the children I teach and their parents. I view us as a team. I will be sharing some of your thoughts (and your website address) with other people I know who work in the school system. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  170. erts meister

    Dear Flappiness is….I have recently stumbled across your blog and want to say I love your writing and your ability to write about what us parents of special-needs children are thinking.

    We are waiting for our DUE PROCESS hearing but are in the early stages of writing and annual IEP for my daughter. I would love to have permission to read this blog entry at my meeting.

    I know you are very knowledgeable and I don’t mean to be giving you unsolicited advice but I just wanted to share something with you….I have a 6 year old daughter and was informed by the Hawaii DOE that she was just MR. When I asked for a new SLP because I felt she wasn’t doing her job…why are you going to teach my child that has the ability speak PECS… the district SPED coordinator told me “the IEP team feels it’s your daughters cognitive ability getting in the way of her progress.” Well in December of 2010 we pulled her out and have had her in a private preschool with typical kids half day and an intense 1:1 program at home after. With the appropriate intervention and teaching procedures and in the Least Restrictive Environment she is thriving. I know Hawaii is ranked one of the worst in the nation for education but the SPED program here is still in the dark ages.

    I just wanted to ask you to look into Verbal Beahvior VB-MAPP by Mark Sunberg and it will explain the different levels of learning and how to really analyze how IEP goals should be written so they are appropriate goals for the learner and not just cookie cutter according to chronological age…like they were doing for my daughter. Also please get private evaluations done from a good OT, PT, SLP and Behavior Analyst so you know what is going on. I really trusted the DOE and wasted 2 1/2 years of my daughters life.

  171. Debbie D

    I am crying as I read this. Thank you so much for saying what som many of us feel! i will be saying this and sharing if you don’t mind!!!

  172. Amy Hercules

    Thank you for this blog post. I cried when I read it. I am an educator. I was a teacher for years and now I create educational curriculum. I have three children and my oldest daughter (6 years old) has 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome. This blog post hits home as an educator and even more so as a parent of a special needs child.

    I have shared this on 22q support pages as well as my FB page. I have also shared it with my team of educators. While my team no longer teach in a classroom we are all still teachers at heart and I believe that in order to create the best curriculum we must ALWAYS have the student in mind.

    I pray everyday that my daughter’s teachers will have the same realization as you. I pray that they learn about her syndrome (most have never even heard of it but it affects 1:2000 kids and 95% of these kids have learning disabilities) and really see her.

    Thank you again. Your son is very lucky to have you.

  173. harmony671

    Reblogged this on The Holland's Home and commented:
    I ran across this blog on Facebook, a group I belong too that serves families who choose to home school their special needs children.
    ” In just a few months, I am going to be placing my special little boy into the hands of the public school system. Because he is non-verbal, I will have no way of literally knowing how his day went, if he is being treated well, and if those to whom I am entrusting his care really do care about him. This kind of fear is paralyzing. And more so because I know just how little training (read almost none) that most of the staff in a public school have in dealing with children like my son.”

    It is for this reason I have never considered putting my children in school, even when like last week I wanna throw in the towel.

  174. Jenny Saul-Avila

    I’m sorry that you received so much negativity for this – I thought it was beautiful. I hope I can keep in regular, good contact with my son’s future teachers b/c I am quite sure he will not be able to tell me how his day was. We’re several months away from him being 3 & being thrust into that world we never expected, but I am so nervous, so afraid for him. He goes to daycare 2 days per week now & I only have so much info from his teachers, although I do get a daily report & get to chat w/ them nearly every time I drop him off & that helps me feel better. But 5 days per week school in a public school setting that I have no past experience with in my own life is very daunting.
    There is a ridiculous percentage of teachers in my family & friends group – I know from what they tell how hard it is to be a teacher & I have great faith in all teachers. One bad teacher is not all teachers. I believe in my son’s therapists & their good intentions. But I know what budgets are in Early Intervention & in the public school system & how that can play a huge role in the services my son recieves, no matter how much his teachers/therapists want to help. It’s not a lack of caring – it’s a lack of resources in so many ways.

  175. Hope

    I am new to your blog and I realize this is an old post, but I just wanted to thank you for your wonderful words, especially the phrase “Binder of Epic Proportions” I nearly fell off my couch laughing!! I make a new binder at the beginning of the school year for both my son (age 9) and daughter (age 4) (both on the spectrum, daughter with additional special needs due to PVL). This year’s binders will be volume 5 for my son and volume 4 for my daughter (she has had Early intervention therapy since she was 8 months old). I cling to my binders at every IEP and behavioral health services reauth meeting. I like to think of it as my secret weapon…I have information and I know how to use it!!

  176. cricket

    Cricket here.

    Checking in on a couple of things, if you don’t mind.

    First, how is your son doing in his first year or so in the public school system? I remember how nerve-wracking it was for us (I did my share of the drop-offs), and I truly hope that he’s doing well.

    Second, in your original post, you promised to educate your colleagues who “don’t get it.” How has that gone?

    Now, before you dismiss this second question as a follow-up from a disgruntled poster of a year ago, please understand that in making this promise, you offered something that parents on the outside of the school system don’t have easy (read: any real) access to: someone on the “inside” who at least stated a willingness to advocate on their behalf, to some degree, to her colleagues, from some level of authority as both a colleague *and* as a parent of a special needs child.

    Take care – it’s a long journey.
    – cricket

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author


      Well, Callum is doing well. He is showing social progress and communicating more. We are still hopeful for more speech, but it is still early.

      As for what I am doing now, I believe I am doing what I can.

      1.For one, my blog is no secret to those in the small city in which I live and my identity is no secret to anyone else on the internet. I have shared the blog with those in my “real life” as well as acquaintances (many of whom are in the school system) on my personal FB account. Some have questioned the wisdom of my putting myself out there. But this blog is a labor of love– with purpose. (You’ll notice that I don’t do paid promotions. And, to date, I haven’t earned a penny on this site. Instead, I’ve spent my own money and certainly many, many hours of my time.) I have always expressed myself best in writing, and this is mostly how I hope to go about making a difference. So far, I have heard from many people who work with our children – from teachers to anxious moms suspecting their children are on the spectrum – to people who previously knew nothing of the issue. So, I feel I am doing something beneficial just by putting myself out there.

      2. I went to speak with the director of ESE in my county and offered myself up for teacher training on autism. And she took me up on it. A couple of months ago, she invited me to speak at another school to a concerned team of teachers working with a new student on the spectrum. It went well. One of those teachers is now even a regular reader.

      3. I spoke with three of the candidates in our local superintendent election about the need for improved services in our county.

      4. I have become an unofficial advocate in our school for our spectrum kids. All of our administrators and guidance counselors know of my interest in these kids and often ask me to meet them or offer them sanctuary in the library. I like to get to know these kids, so that I can be someone they will go to when encountering trouble. I’m relieved to say that many do.

      5. I have appeared on an internet television show, addressing dangerous mischaracterizations of autistic individuals as being violent.

      The internet is a funny thing. Words are exact, but tone is not. Please forgive me if I am misreading your comment. But I am picking up a degree of challenge in your question — as though you’ve perhaps been waiting me out to see if I failed in what you perceive to be my attempts to redeem myself.

      You are not the first person who has questioned me about my promises. Fair enough — as you pointed out, but I feel as though my intention was mischaracterized. I wasn’t a sorry, uncaring teacher who didn’t love her students and attempt to do the best for them. I was an untrained general education teacher (not special education as some have assumed) who didn’t have a clue how to go about meeting their specific needs and really didn’t comprehend the difficulties or emotions faced by their parents. It is impossible to “get” what you haven’t experienced. Now, for example, I wouldn’t expect Callum’s teacher to completely understand what my experience is like. Any more than I fully understand what it is like to have a chronically ill child. But I think they can better understand, so I try to be one of the many voices who help to spread the message.

      But it seems to me that some have challenged me – following that post – to justify myself, as though my intention was to prostrate myself upon the altar of shame. I believe those folks have had some god-awful experiences. For that, I’m sorry. But I am one person, and I was never their child’s teacher. I’m happy to be transparent, but I’m not willing to accept a role as a symbol of the collective shame of the nation’s sorriest teachers. On one hand, I’m happy to share with you what I’ve been trying to do in my personal and professional life to spread the message. On the other hand, I’m uncomfortable with the idea of “reporting in” to a parole committee (of sorts) attempting to verify if I have been rehabilitated. That’s not something I feel that I owe anyone.

      I do what I can do because I want to do it. But, in the meantime, I am the sole wage-earner (teacher’s salary, mind you) in a family of four (while my husband returned to college), a mother of two, employed full-time, and am going through grief (and the hassles of probate) over my father’s recent death. I’m a real person, leading a real life, and I’m doing the best I can. Perhaps I am being defensive. But I am detecting an undercurrent of challenge in your words. And, truthfully, I have enough battles I will have to fight in the years to come. Creating new battles by accepting a role as penitent can’t be one of them. That was not my intention.

      I hope that makes sense. My intention is not to offend.

      1. Tasha

        I learned long ago, you have to answer to no one and never are required to explain yourself or decisions! I think when you wrote that post, you wrote from your heart. It was a genuine apology and vow not to make the same mistakes twice. That is the best you could do. Before someone puts your motives or action into question, they first need to step back and ask themselves what have they done for the cause?! Are they spending what extra (if any) energy that we have left after caring for our kids on advocacy?! Don’t feel the need to check in! You doing great and the initial letter was enough for me. It takes a big person to admit they didn’t do everything they could and an even bigger person to try to change!

  177. Pingback: 10 Promises Every Special Educator Should Make To Their Students’ Parents

  178. Alison

    I’m new to this blog, but hope that someone can give me some valuable information. My son does ABA therapy only for his autism. He is doing quite well but I think we can do more. Does anyone have any advice on what that could be?

    Thank you in advance!

    1. Profile photo of FlappinessIsFlappinessIs Post author

      I would certainly want to have him evaluated for speech, occupational, and physical therapy as well. Sometimes there are deficits you can’t see, but a trained therapist can. For enrichment, you could also look into horse therapy, specialized swim lessons, sensory integration therapy summer camps, music therapy, etc. :)

  179. Pingback: Misfits on the Island of Misfit Toys « Delightfully Different Life

  180. Tracy

    I realize this post is several years old, but I thought it worth commenting on anyway. I do not have special needs children, but I do teach them, as a regular ed teacher. In fact, it has become a fairly regular practice for me to have 50% or more SpEd students in my regular ed classroom. I have been blessed to be able to work with a phenomenal TA for the last three years, but it is still a struggle for me. I am out there trying to learn to the best of my ability how to manage and best meet the needs of all students as individuals, but I know I am not there yet. Thank you for your post, as it (and all of the comments) has helped me in my learning process.

    Thank you.

Comments are closed.