It’s the end of the school year and I’m an emotional hot mess. I’ve attended the awards ceremony, the graduation, the end of year presentation, and read over the progress reports. I’ve seen the pictures and videos from field day and water day. If I were funny and clever like Jen Hatmaker, I’d write something like “Worst End of School Year Mom Ever” because aren’t we all feeling like we’re hanging on by a thread at this point? (I know you are as well, teachers.) Yes, I am exhausted and have too much to remember, but my heart is so, so full.

We are blessed beyond measure with a phenomenal school team- seriously, all of them. It’s a rarity, I know. If you aren’t a part of the special needs world, you’d be shocked by how hard many parents have to fight to ensure their child’s right to a free and appropriate education, let alone just making sure they are cared for and safe while at school. Even if you aren’t a special needs parent, you’ve likely seen more than one news story about the abuse of a special needs child while at school. It’s scary stuff, and it’s what makes a mama like me appreciate a team like ours all the more. So, I’d like to take a moment and just say to all of the wonderful, amazing, kind and caring teachers and support staff out there- I see you!

School nurses- You are the ones making sure our children stay safe and well. You’re administering the medications, the tube feedings. You’re handling it like a pro when things go south whether it’s an illness, a displaced feeding tube button or a seizure. Thank you for helping us parents feel comfortable sending a medically challenging child outside of our care and into yours every day.

Paraprofessionals/Teacher’s Assistants- I know your work is often overlooked and undervalued, and that is a shame. You are the gears that keep the machine running! You’re doing lots of the one-on-one educational work with each student, changing the diapers and assisting in the bathroom, and just generally being an extra set of hands wherever you’re needed. Most importantly, you do it all with love. Seeing the end-of-year photos of my daughter with her “school mama” brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for loving (even when it was tough love) and supporting my child so that she could learn each day.

Therapists- What can I say? Therapists rock! You’re giving our kids the tools and skills to be successful in the classroom and beyond. You are the master of crafting an IEP goal which both addresses an area of need for for my child while meeting the requirement of being “education/school-related.” I watched video clips at our end-of-year presentation of my daughter walking up stairs, using a communication system, and removing and placing clothespins into the small opening of a box- all things she couldn’t do at the beginning of the year. I couldn’t hold back the tears of joy, and it’s all because of y’all.

Teachers- Each and every day you are charged with the responsibility of educating children who are challenged in one way or another while still keeping with curriculum standards that don’t really fit those children’s needs. It has to be frustrating. I see you showing up every day, being innovative and reaching my child where she is. You share my joy, delight, and excitement when my child gains a new skill. When you talk about our kids your eyes light up, your smile beams and your energy is electric. It’s a beautiful and comforting thing to behold.

To all of you- Thank you for being passionate about what you do! It’s not just a job for you. I want you to know that I see and appreciate you even when it seems like the world doesn’t care and you’re doing a thankless job. Thank you for seeing my child’s education as important work even when other’s don’t.

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Lauren Cootes

A mostly stay-at-home mom to a spunky six year old diva with an unknown genetic syndrome and a four year old, wild tornado of a boy, Lauren is passionate about faith, family, food, fitness, social media and all things special needs. She prides herself on being awkwardly honest, is a lover of people and immensely enjoys their stories. Facebook: Instagram: