What Special Education Teachers and Professionals Want You to Know
Special Education Teachers & School Professionals
Teachers/School Professionals: what would you like to say to the parents of children with special education needs if you had the opportunity to speak freely to them?
1 – Keep asking/demanding support for your child
Don’t take “no” or “no funds” for an answer. Tell the school/teacher what you want and make sure you understand all IEP information before signing. Make sure all behavior plans have separate signature pages. This is an easy way for them to slip in a plan you are unaware of (it happened to me). Make sure you call PAVE, or another support system, if you feel you need an advocate. Finally, remember we, the educators, work for you. Please call state and federal government agencies to tell them to give funding back to schools so we can move forward with proper support for special needs children.
2 – Please let them do for themselves
Please let them do for themselves what they are capable of, for example: tying their shoes or putting on their coats, etc… Stop doing everything for them. They might be able to do more than you think!
3 – We aren’t picking on your child
If we notice red flags in development, be proactive by getting them the help they need and stop fighting us by trying to convince us your child miraculously is capable of everything at home when it’s clear that they struggle greatly within the learning environment. You aren’t helping them, you’re hurting them and robbing them of future opportunities. Overindulging your child because of their special need may be counterproductive to their other areas of development. Your child hurting others, including you, is never ok! Start parenting and stop being weak because it’s an easier option to ignore or overlook the behavior instead of trying to guide and rectify it.
4 – Advocate for your child
Just because your child has a special need doesn’t automatically mean the school will support him/her the way you think/want.It’s not because they don’t want to help; it’s usually a lack of understanding of your child’s needs, a lack of funding or not enough educational assistants at the school to support the number of students needing support. Teachers need to know what works at home and what might help at school, but we also need you to know we will do the best we can with the support we are given if you work with us. With a large class and/or many special needs children in our class, we may not be able to do everything we would like to do for your child on our own. So, work with us, support what we are doing, and keep advocating for your child’s needs. School boards rarely listen to the teachers’ requests but if a parent (who feels a child’s needs are not being met) goes above school level to anyone with power to make changes, that will likely be more successful.
5 – We don’t know everything
Some of us have studied a lot, and have degrees in education; some have maybe even specialized in Special Ed., but we don’t know it all. Sometimes we will try a method that won’t work with your child, if it doesn’t, don’t put all the blame on us. Work with us to find the best method for your child. If the teacher is a good teacher they WILL try something else, until the best teaching method for your child has been found. If the teacher doesn’t try other methods, speak with them, do some research of your own and ask them to implement it. If they don’t want to, or if you see they are only “humoring you” take it up with whoever is supervising the said teacher. Your child’s progress is the most important thing!
6 – I am both a mother and aid for special needs
The biggest and scariest thing I can say is “let them grow up be independent”. We will do a lot for your child but we cannot baby them; that is not what our goal is, our goal is to help them be as independent and strong as possible. Be your child’s advocate, but also teach them to speak up for what they need. Example “ I need to take a break- – I am feeling overwhelmed”.
7 – Get an advocate who can help you understand
Get an advocate who can help you understand federal and state laws and the procedural steps for obtaining special education for your child. We teachers are swamped and do not always have the time needed for each family. Also, as much as we want to help, sometimes we get caught in the middle of what we think a child needs and what we know our Special Ed department can afford. An advocate can help you pursue what is appropriate for your child.
8.1 – Get over your needs, your grief cycle, your dreams of normality and FOCUS on the NEEDS of your child.
Don’t put your needs first for a ‘normal’ child and send them into mainstream if they can’t cope with it. These decisions are not easy, but regardless of what schooling, learning, social/behavioral choices you make – go in with your eyes and ears open. Recognize what they will gain and miss out on and weigh that up consciously when you make all these decisions for your child. Be ready and open to listen and share how things are at home and school. You won’t make the right decision or use the right strategy every time. Having said that, work as a team to tweak it to suit your child. Stick with new strategies long enough (6-12wks).
8.2 – Special needs kids can be naughty
Just like any other kid (they are not always blame free)
8.3 – You get what you put in
If you put in the effort after weighing it all up and making good decisions – it will pay off. REMEMBER IT’S A MARATHON–not a sprint.
9 – Your child is not broken
You are doing the best you can, and I want to work with you to ensure that your son/daughter has every opportunity to succeed. I want you to know that instead of focusing solely on what he/she can’t do and what they need help with, I want and need you to also take the time to see what they can do. I promise to give 100% of my time and effort to make sure that your child receives every possible service to help them succeed.
10 – Please, let’s keep open communication
Feel free to reach out to me as many times as you need to. We are a team; I am not your enemy. Tell me about your child; his/ her likes and dislikes, what works at home and what you think I can incorporate into the classroom/school to make them feel safe, to keep them engaged and to ensure that I am giving them the tools they need not just for when they are with me, but out in the world as well.
11 – I am a special needs parent and teacher
I have seen people with children of all ages struggle with acceptance. This struggle manifests itself in many ways that are not often positive When a parent is struggling with acceptance there are so many emotions (remember I am one of those parents too). Fear-what will happen to my child in the future, in school, in life? When I am no longer here, will they have friends or happiness? Will they meet with educators and caregivers who treat them with love and kindness? For those who are medically ill, will they get well? There might be shame for some- and stigma. I would say to please, please, please try to work on acceptance. Try to join a group, or find parents in your situation. Find Respite. Speak to a trusted friend, counselor, minister-anyone you feel comfortable with to help you in your journey. I know it wont happen over night. I know it is extremely painful. I know it is hard. Then you can advocate for that little person who depends on YOU for everything in life.
You May Also Like
- “Instruction Manual” for Your Child With Special Needs
- Financial Planning: For Those Who Are at the Starting Line
- 8 Ways to be a Great Advocate For Your Family Member With Special Needs
- Embracing Your Child’s Best Ways of Learning 12 Different Ways to Learn
- Can I Get Help with My Child’s Behavior?
- Whether it’s Your First IEP or You’re a Pro: 10 things to Cover at the Meeting
- IEP… I Do’s Building a Viable Home-School Relationship – It’s like a Marriage
- Beyond the IEP Team: 6 Tips for Parent Participation at School
- A PATH to the Future
- Advocacy Tips for the Long Haul
- How to Set Clear Goals and Plan Naturally
- Developing Your Own Network
- How to Help Your Child Cope With Incontinence At School
This post originally appeared on our September/October 2015 Magazine