10 Things You Should Know About Parents of Children with Special Needs

“One of the great things that any community can do is not teach tolerance, but live tolerance, not talk respect, but live inclusivity.” – Michael Pritchard

children with special needs

According to the National Center for Education, 6.6. million kids, teens and young adults. ages 3 – 21 receive special education services. That’s 13 percent of all public school students.  It’s more than likely that every principal, every educator will work with families who have children with special needs.

Parents like me who have special needs kids are fierce, I admit. We’ve survived the diagnosis stage and the grieving process that our son or daughter’s childhood is not going to look like our first vision of it. And after that, many of us learn how to advocate, how to defend our kids rights, how to fight.  We’re different. Here are 12 things every school principal and educator should know about parents of special education students.

1. Urgency and immediacy matter to us.

Set up a meeting early on to discuss placement so that we feel certain our children are going to be cared for at school.

2. We need a soft ear.

Listen to us. Especially when we are forthcoming about our hopes and fears about school, administration, teachers, and staff.

3. Transparency counts.

Be honest about what your school can and can’t provide in the realm of services for our children with special needs.

4. It takes a village

To help our kids be the most successful, make every effort to accommodate services our children receive outside of school (counselor, ABA, medical, medications, etc.) during the school day. Integrated services can be a game-changer for parents and children who never have enough time.

5. The more collaboration the better.

Involve the school nurse, the physical therapist, the occupational therapist, and the speech therapist in developing a plan for our kids.

6. Stay connected with us.

Make and share a clear communication plan to allow for several situations that may eventually occur. The more communication there is, the better for everyone involved.

7. Practice empathy.

Make sure you tell us that you want our children there and that you will work as a team to give them the best environment you can offer. Be empathetic. Finding out a child is diagnosed with a disability can be a grieving process.

8. Talk it out.

Hold meetings in a timely manner before our child’s first day, at specific intervals, and at the first possible sign of any issue impeding his or her success.

9. Be seen.

We want to meet everyone who will be in contact with our special needs child. It helps to know who will be working with them.

10. Know your stuff.

Learn as much as you can about special education laws. Keep abreast of the changes and how they affect the kids in your school. The more you know, the better you can meet the needs of every student.

Join our Facebook group Principal Life for more conversation about and insights into the challenges of school leadership.

Posted by Sharisse Tracey

Sharisse Tracey is a mother of 4, writer, educator, counselor and military spouse. She has earned a MS in Educational Counseling, an MFA in Creative Writing & holds a Bachelor Degree in Child Development. Sharisse now works as a freelance writer & activist focused on autism & equality in education.

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