Wednesday, February 5, 2014

I just didn't know.

Before motherhood, I was on your side of the IEP table as a job coach and a prevocational teacher.   To those parents I used to see all the time, I have so much to say. I just didn't know.

I'm sorry I didn't know what it would be like to read those kinds of notes and data and paperwork with your baby's name on it.  I get that now.  Both the good and the bad of it.  Why on some days the very sight of the communication notebook or your yellow copy of the three page triplicate data sheet would make you feel butterflies in your stomach.  That some words would just sear themselves into your brain.

I'm sorry I didn't know what it really meant to have kids.  Yeah, I consider my students my kids.  I can appreciate what a teacher or therapist means when they say this.  Let's face it.  Nobody goes into it for the money.  Even still, it's not the same.  Those words have different meaning now.  I do understand that teachers and therapists do think about them all the time.  The job doesn't stop at the door or when you leave the parking lot.

I'm sorry I didn't realize that by the time you got to me you were already worn out from autism.  My twenty something fresh from college ready to set the world on fire attitude either annoyed you or possibly made you laugh and give you some hope.  I'm hoping it was the latter.  Now that my kid has had a few teachers that I would card if they ordered a drink, I can see why I was looked at with both doubt and sometimes frustration that I just didn't get it.

I'm sorry I came to work some days and just didn't have it in me to give hundred percent.  That I was distracted by things outside a classroom.  I was either annoyed by a coworker but more likely a boss.  That I had stayed out too late the night before and was sleepy.  That I was shaking off a cold or just having some job burnout and thought "OK today. I"m phoning it in."  I did a great disservice to your child.  My job was people, not things.  There's no phoning it in when your job is about people.

I'm sorry that I ever rolled my eyes at my student roster that day and thought "Oh man. Them?" They had a name.  They were their own personalities.  They weren't just a problem or a challenge I had that day.  They deserved the same amount of respect that I wanted them to give me. 

I'm sorry that I didn't stay in touch with some of you.  Boy I could sure use your advice now.  First round of fries is on me.

I'm sorry if I ever said anything about being tired because autism tired is a whole other level of tired.  I had no clue.  None.  I'm sorry about every time I was excited for sudden snow days or vacations.  I get why those reek havoc in your routine now.

I'm sorry that the only way a person can truly get all this is to live it.  I'm not saying it's a curse or a blessing.  It's just autism.  It is what it is and there's no way to fully understand what being an autism family is like unless you get up with it, interact it with it, feed it, and hopefully get it to bed at a reasonable hour at night. 

I'm sorry if I ever gave you a look of pretentious pity.   You needed empathy not my sympathy.  To pity would be to imply your child was just a situation one wants to disappear or go away.  You just wanted help, solutions and some problem solving. Autism is a part of them.  You love the kid, you love the quirks that come with it. 

So if by some strange twist of fate you have read this and wondered "Hey is that her?"  Hello!  How have you been?  Just know I still think about you.  I think about the things I wish I had done differently.  I wonder about you and your children all the time.  I probably won't ever stop.  I hope you have a good day today.  I honor all the work you did years ago.  I hope it's paid off.  Even when it was hard. 


  1. I LOVE your blog. What a beautiful sentiment.

  2. Oh yes, I so get this. I taught before my kids were born, sat through hundreds of IEP meetings and thought I knew. But I didn't until I was sitting on the parent side of it and it was my child.

  3. Beautifully said Thank you....

  4. This is brilliant. I was a teacher before my own kids were born, and will be on the other side of that table in the very near future as my son starts kindergarten.

  5. Again Proving why you are one of my heroes....

  6. I still teach kids with Autism, my perspective is so different now, I never realised how little I knew when I had done so very much training and research. I could easily have written this, and I am trying hard to be a different teacher, but boy is it a stretch. Autism at home and school is rewarding, fun, interesting, tough x

  7. I totally agree, my eyes really opened the first day I was sat on the 'other side" of that long SEN meeting table and I realised for the first time how it should never be like that.... the table needs to be ditched for a start... How can you ever build a good working relation ship with people sitting in a line on the 'other side' of the table how can that ever build trust.
    I have changed quite a bit in how I approach parents generally now but especially parents whose children are struggling for whatever reason and if there ever has to be a table I always sit on the same side as the parents now,,,, :)

  8. Yeah. This. I have wanted to write this for years. I'm an OT. I made a parent cry one time and I'll never forget it. I just didn't know. Thanks again for you work. I love you.

  9. Have sat on both sides of the IEP table. The first IEP for my son lead to all the other IEPs I have ever written, chaired or attended. I've learned that most parents will be your greatest resource. I was happy to read this and the comments. Thank you for your work- you've all made a difference in the lives of children.