By most accounts, I should be one of those standing; after all, my degrees, certificates, and 18 years of experience in the field of education all point to me being an expert. In fact, the moment I walk into a classroom or home, that is the general expectation—and rightfully so. While I’m humbled and honored to be adorned with this title, I do not want to forget who the real experts are: parents. As a mom of four, I know that all parents have earned the title of expert.
Now don’t get me wrong, “expert” does not mean “know-it-all who does not need help, guidance, or direction from others”. Rather, “expert” is defined as, “a person who has comprehensive and authoritative knowledge in a particular area”. Parents have obtained the title of expert in areas involving our children.
Who spends more hours of the day with our children? Who has laid awake at night thinking and worrying about our children more than we have? Who knows exactly how our children like their sandwiches, which cup the juice needs to be served out of, what things frighten or excite them, how they like to be tucked in at night, what their favorite television shows, stories, toys, and songs are? This knowledge makes YOU an expert, a carrier of precious information that no other human being knows more about on this earth than you; YOU are an expert on your child!
Parents shouldn’t be overlooked or underestimated when it comes to their children. When I look into the eyes of the families I work with and I tell them this, their faces typically all look the same. It’s a look of shock, relief, perhaps a bit of fear, but most of all gratitude, as if they have been validated for the very first time. I share my heart with them and express to them that this is a journey we will walk together, side by side. Together we will laugh, cry, learn, and grow along with their precious child. I reassure my families that this journey is one in which both they and their child will teach me many new things and I in turn hope to teach them new things as well.
Over the past eighteen years of being involved in the field of education, I have gained some very strong insights and convictions—one of which is that parents are truly experts who have comprehensive and authoritative knowledge. It is my hope that any parent reading this will know that they are an expert and that their voice needs to be heard in order for their children to receive their best chance in this world. YOU are the voice for your child; YOU are their advocate. Whenever the families I work with tell me, “I know you are the expert,” I humbly remind them that they are experts, too. Just because I hold the degrees doesn’t mean what I have to say is more important than what they have to contribute. I ask my families: What are your thoughts? How do you think your child will respond to this? What do you think is best? I also encourage my families to let me know if the strategies we attempt are working for them as a family; I want to hear what the families like and don’t like when it comes to the strategies we are implementing.
This role of expert doesn’t end when families move from early intervention to the school setting—in fact, it becomes even more important for us as parents to share our comprehensive and authoritative knowledge when our babies move into the school setting. I encourage all of my parents to know their rights and those of their child, and to speak up for those rights. If you find yourself unsure of something, you have the right to ask questions and to seek out honest answers. You should never feel the need to apologize for advocating for and participating in your child’s education. Remember this fact and carry it with you: YOU are an expert! I leave you with this poem:
I am “that mom”
-The one who speaks up before, during and after IEP (IFSP) meetings
-The one who demands the IEP (IFSP) be followed
-The one who questions everything
-The one who loses sleep over needs not met
-The one who cries over skills lost
-The one who give a voice to her child when they have none
-The one who has experienced highs she’d never dreamed of and lows she would wish on no one
-The one who sometimes dreads adulthood instead of looking forward to it
-The one who will never give up advocating for her child
I am “that mom”. And darn proud of it.
Learning and Behavioral Specialist, Family Advocate, and Speaker