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One Mom’s Journey Through the Special Education System

It’s not easy being a mom (said every mom everywhere), but being the mom of a “special needs” child takes maternal difficulty to a whole new level, both emotionally and logistically. Feelings like shock, fear and uncertainty become your baseline. Yes, you will even learn a whole new vocabulary (“special needs,” “neuro-divergent,” “IEP”, etc.) replete with acronyms and politically correct verbiage.

When my son was officially diagnosed with autism, I can’t say I was surprised. I always knew there was something different about Eddie. His sister Ellie, who is two years older, gave me a frame of reference for “normal” development and Eddie just never seemed to fit into that frustratingly crafted medical holy grail. I had even asked Eddie’s pediatrician directly if he had autism when he was very young and she assured me absolutely not. But for whatever reason, in that moment, I felt no reassurance, just more confusion and sadness.

From the moment I left the (second) developmental pediatrician’s office after Eddie’s diagnosis, I was thrown, with little knowledge or guidance, into the world of “special education” and “special services.” Left to navigate this abyss on my own, it was the beginning of a long, often sad and frustrating journey that I knew would be lifelong. While I expected (maybe incorrectly so) to be led and supported by my school district, I quickly discovered I was on my own, to figure out not only what my son needed, but what he legally deserved. I relied heavily on the ubiquitous google search and quickly learned my best resource was actually other moms, other women navigating that same scary abyss I was. These wonderful women became not only a resource for available services and treatment providers, but a tremendous support to me in this frightening journey.

My biggest frustration has been and continues to be getting answers to my seemingly direct and specific questions. Something as simple as wanting to know what services are available for Eddie during the summers, or what would his classroom options be as he entered kindergarten, left me with only vague and confusing answers like, “well what exactly are you looking for?” I felt not only confused but dismissed and unsupported by the very institution responsible for providing my son with his education.

Special Education Mediation is one truly valuable resource for parents and caregivers, but very often an unknown option to them. Mediation gives a strong voice to moms like me. Through the mediation process, you should feel acknowledged, heard and respected. Your expertise in your child’s needs will be balanced with available and legally mandated resources. Creative solutions, even us moms haven’t thought of, are presented as viable options. Your mediator, who serves as a neutral third party, will ensure a fair and equitable outcome, the one thing you’ve always been fighting for. Special Education Mediation can be pivotal to ensuring children with special needs get the services and educational opportunities they deserve.

Many times, I have wanted to give up, because I was tired of fighting, felt the world was unfair and no one, other than me, really cared, but I knew that was never an option. When you feel like this too, consider Special Education Mediation. When you’re used to hearing “no,” mediation can bring you the “yes” you’d always been hoping for.


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