There is nowhere I go in my daily life where adults call me “mom,” so it is with great wonder that it happens to the mothers with whom I work at IEP team meetings with regularity. Now for some reason, I don’t experience that fathers are referred to as “dad” by staff. It is a practice reserved for mothers.
As a parent of a child with a disability and a special education advocate, this practice used by school staff bothers me. It usually begins right at the beginning of the meeting when everyone goes around and introduces themselves. Parents will say their names, usually followed by “I’m the mom or dad.” So for the rest of the meeting, everyone on the team calls the mother “mom.”
While the speech and language pathologist says “I’m Susie, the speech, and language pathologist,” nobody refers to her as “speech and language pathologist.” People around the table call her “Susie.”
The cynic in me believes that referring to mothers as “mom” lessens their position as an equal team member. Being the “mom” to my sons is my greatest accomplishment in life, but I still want to be called by my name, it’s Julie.
I have a solution for it. As an advocate, I NEVER refer to the parents with whom I work as “mom,” or “dad.” I call them by their names. In this way, I try to model the behavior I would hope the rest of the team follows. It rarely happens that team follows suit, by the way.
As a parent, when I am at my own IEP team meetings if a staff member calls me “mom,” I politely say “oh, please call me Julie.” I advise the parents with whom I work to do the same.
Perhaps you are not offended when IEP team members call you “mom” or “dad.” I suppose it’s a personal thing, but having attended hundreds upon hundreds of IEP team meeting with parents, my opinion is that parents should be treated equally on the team. You are a member of the team and, it is my opinion, you should be called by your name, just as everyone else is.
Special Education Advocate and Author
Julie Swanson, is a parent of a young adult son who has autism and a special education advocate. She is also the co-author of Your Special Education Rights: What Your School District Isn’t Telling You and co-founder of Your Special Education Rights.com, a video-based website that teaches parents about their rights under the IDEA.