Hello, my name is Julie. There is nowhere I personally 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” as often.
As a parent of a child with a disability and a special education advocate, this practice used by school staff really 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, but a girl can try!
My advise to parents is to politely ask staff to call them by their name. It’s easy. When a team member calls you “mom” or “dad,” politely say ” Oh you can call me “Ellen.” When they do, thank them. I strongly believe that you can’t change other’s behaviors until you change your own, so expect your team to call you by your name – politely at all times, of course! Claim your seat at the table as a team member who has a name just like everyone else!