Dear Regular Education Teacher,

An Open Letter from a Hearbroken Mom

Dear Regular Education Teacher,

Today I received my sons final evaluation from the school district. It’s kind of a big deal because this is the one we need to ensure that his IQ and functioning levels are documented so we can be granted guardianship of him when he turns 18. What this means is that he cannot safely live independently and will always need assistance for the rest of his life.  We are not parents in denial.  This was not a surprise to us..

That in itself does not upset me. We have shot for the stars with this child, and adjusted our expectations as we needed. He has surpassed so many milestones that many believed he never would. We weren’t sure he would ever speak, or that he understood anything we said to him , or that he would ever be able to communicate his wants and needs when he was young and diagnosed with severe, profound autism. But he can do all of those things in spite of that diagnosis.  

We’ve worked very hard.

He’s worked very hard. 

His special education teachers, therapist, and special education administrators have worked very, very VERY hard. 


We all work together to help him achieve amazing goals during his school career.  I am as proud of him now as I have been any of my other children.

The report, however, made me cry.  It made my husband angry.  It wasn’t the IQ score.  That’s actually the best it has ever been.  Truthfully, it can’t possibly represent the amazing human my son has become.  No, the part that upset us was your 2 sentence summary of what you see in my child.  Thankfully, we had 2 other regular education teachers who also reported as well.  

One said that my son was a joy to have in class and really enjoyed interacting with his typical peers.  Another said that while my son had trouble attending to tasks sometimes, she enjoyed his presence in the class and was happy he had picked up some of what she was teaching.  

Then I read your statement:  “We need to consistently remind _____ what the rules are for class. When he is reminded, he follows the rules some of the time. He attempts assignments but does not complete them and does not use his time wisely or work independently.”

Was I surprised by anything you said? Only that he doesn’t follow rules when reminded. He’s never had a behavior plan at any point during his school career and seems to follow rules once he understands them.  Other than that, nothing else was surprising except the fact that you had nothing nice at all to say about my child.  

Let’s be honest:  If he were able to complete assignments independently without getting distracted he wouldn’t be in special education or have a para who assists him as needed or have “”modified curriculum” stamped on his report cards and transcript.  I also wasn’t surprised that you had such negative things to say as your just above failing grades for the past year let me know that you do not understand that a modified curriculum means that his grades are not reflective of what other students’ grades are nor are the reflective of the goals for the rest of the class. He has his own goals and should be graded accordingly.  

No, I do not expect him to have 100% in your class either.  That would mean that he’s not being challenged enough.  I expect him to learn something.  He actually does because he comes home and tells and shows us things he has learned that came from your class.  It’s too bad that you aren’t seeing the progress we see.  Then again, you clearly have never had the joy of celebrating all of the little successes that make up our life.  You also never learned the #1 rule that EVERY TEACHER is ever taught:  You always say something positive about a child especially when you have something to say that is not as positive.

My husband’s response was that he wonders if the other students pick up on your negativity in regards to our son.  He said he can just see your eyes rolling at having to deal with him, and he wonders if the typical students pick up on your attitude towards him.  If they do, I hope they will look to their peers and other adults who greet my son at football games and in the community despite never having had class with him. They get that he has a disability and that he has things to teach anyone who takes the time to get to know him.

You should know that our son does a lot of things right. He has positive traits as well.  For a child with autism, he has learned to read people. He knows when he is underestimated, and he will write you off before you have written him off.  That’s unfortunate for those he does because they never experience the joy that is knowing him.  They never get to see his deep sense of humor. They also never realize that he understands so much more than he can say. Too bad you’ll never know the joy seeing such huge progress in such small accomplishments.

The worst part of your comments is that this is the paperwork that we will use for the rest of his life as his last formal evaluation. But the IQ scores, the diagnosis, nor your statements will not keep him from succeeding. He will have a productive life.  He will work to give back to his community. He will be joyful, and he will never stop teaching people to see beyond the disability if they are willing to look with an open heart.


Mom of an amazing special education student