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Does Advocating for Your Child With Special Needs Make You a Bully?

Does Advocating for Your Child With Special Needs Make You a Bully?

You know her—‘that mom’ who ceaselessly pushes for her child, who hounds the school with emails and questions. She has a reputation. But is she a bully, or just doing what she needs to for her kid? A local mother and former teacher weighs in.  

When I first started working in special education as a teacher aide eight years ago, I remember being warned about “that mom.” And as I continued on in the field working in different schools in different districts, I would always hear about “that mom” because, as I came to realize, every school has “that mom.” Most schools have several of them. 

I quickly learned that “that mom” was not a compliment. You were to stay away from “that mom.” You were supposed to tread lightly around “that mom” and you were to be very, very careful about what you say to “that mom.” 

By the time I became a teacher, I started to warn others about “that mom.” I hated dealing with “that mom.” So you could imagine the irony when I realized that, in the last few years that I have been dealing with my school district as a parent, I have become “that mom.” And, well, as “that mom” I feel it my duty to clear the air:

Dear Teacher/Principal/School Administrator:

It has come to my attention that I am being referred to as “that mom” and I am here to set the record straight. When I was a teacher I knew exactly what you meant about “that mom” and I believed every word of it. 

“That mom” is a pain. “That mom” tells you how to do your job. “That mom” comes at you with books to read and research to review. “That mom” never seems happy with what you are doing. “That mom” tries to convince you that there is something wrong with her child even when you can clearly see otherwise. 

REALTED: Find Advocacy Services Near You

“That mom” just wants her child to get special treatment. “That mom” doesn’t respect your professional opinion. “That mom” isn’t happy about the services your school provides. “That mom” wants more and cannot just be satisfied by what you have to offer. “That mom” questions everything

“That mom” is constantly asking you for data and information to support what you say. “That mom” brings an advocate to her IEP meetings. “That mom” is crazy and overprotective. She is a trouble maker. She is every school district’s worst nightmare.

Well, I am here to tell you that I am not “that mom.” Rather, I am “this mom.” 

“This mom” has a child with extra needs. “This mom” fully understands that the challenges her child faces aren’t the end of the world—but, still, they are enough to make everyday life a bit more challenging. 

“This mom” has accepted that her child comes with a different set of instructions that aren’t so easy to understand. “This mom” made it her job to become an expert in her child’s challenges so she can teach her to be the best she can be. “This mom” understands that her child’s behaviors could look minimal or be misunderstood, which is why she tries to share her parental experience to help make your job a little easier. 

“This mom” has years’ worth of data, reports, and evaluations to prove that her child’s extra needs do indeed exist, as hard as they are to see. “This mom” has watched teachers judge her child in a negative way and make her feel badly about things she was unable to control. “This mom” has seen her child question herself, and it was truly heartbreaking. “This mom” doesn’t think there is anything wrong with her child and she wouldn’t change her for the world. 

“This mom” has a child who needs minor accommodations. “This mom” asks for data to back up your recommendations because she has been lied to in the past. “This mom” is trying to make sure her child gets what she is legally entitled to. “This mom” spends more time researching special education law than she wants to. 

RELATED: Find Special Needs Resources in Your Area

“This mom” is tired. She is misunderstood. She is her child’s only true advocate. “This mom” just wants you to listen.

You see, the day I became a parent I realized that there was this person in the world I cared about more than myself. In an instant I felt this urge to love and protect this person with everything I had inside of me. But then came the realization that at some point this child may deal with pain or hardship, and that is a hard pill to swallow when you have this overwhelming instinct to shield her from anything difficult. 

So, as you can see, all I want is for my children to be happy and successful despite the challenges they face in life. I want what is best for them. I want them to embrace themselves for who they are...warts and all. And wanting all of these things doesn’t make me “that mom” or “this mom.” It just makes me “mom.”

I hope that you can understand my point of view. I want to work with you, not against you. A teacher’s job is often overlooked and undervalued—much like the job of a mother. I hope that we can move forward and work together on creating a happy and well-balanced child. I promise to thank you more and question less. I only ask that you do the same for me.


The mother of “that kid”

REALTED: Financial and Future Planning for a Child with Special Needs

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Lauren Saccone

Author: Lauren Saccone, a former NYC special education teacher and Levittown mother of two girls, blogs about raising her 6-year-old daughter, who has ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder, at In her role as advocate, Saccone informs parents of their child’s legal rights and represents them in meetings with school districts to make sure their child receives the services they are entitled to. See More

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