As a parent or caregiver of a child, there are many questions that you ask yourself regarding the huge responsibilities associated with such a position. These questions are magnified tremendously when your child is special needs.
Do you find yourself asking these questions on a consistent basis:
- Am I handling this particular situation correctly?
- Should I institute a time out for that behavior?
- Is my child prepared to act appropriately in different situations - e.g. restaurant, wedding, playground?
- How do I speak to my child at an appropriate level so they understand the issue as well as the repercussion?
- How do I approach school issues and social issues with peers?
- Are they well mannered?
- Does my child need therapy? OT, PT, Speech, ABA Therapy, A smaller classroom (self contained) or be mainstreamed in for certain subjects and time of day?
- My child does not pick up on queues, what do I do?
The list can go on and on.
These seem like very basic questions to ask yourself however for a special needs child, they are not so basic.
More time and effort needs to be spent on each of these and perhaps broken down into smaller pieces. All of these can be worked on between home and school with the assistance of the school staff and therapists. Remember that for your child to succeed, there MUST be a collaboration between home and school. If your child is not receiving this help in addition to other assistance and you have spoken to the school numerous times in regards to providing this, then you need to come to the realization that you can not do this alone.
If you have sent endless emails, had endless conversations with all of the individuals that work with your child on a daily basis as well as the administration and nothing is changing, then it is time that you hire an advocate. Do not let your child’s school sugar coat your child’s day, their needs and the actual learning environment. Putting your child in a classroom with a teacher or an aid for a substantial part of the day with no other students just because they do not want to deal with the child perhaps having an issue with another student, is unacceptable.
- If your child needs support services and the school does not believe that in fact the child does, you need an advocate.
- If your child has an IEP or 504 Plan in place and is still not receiving what these legal and binding documents state, you need an advocate.
- If you feel as though your child is not placed in the proper learning environment, you need an advocate.
- If you child requires additional support services and the school is not open to making that change, you need an advocate.
- If your child’s behavior is progressively becoming worse, you need an advocate.
- If your child is attending school and all the school is doing is pushing your child through because they do not want to commit to your child and help them to succeed, you need an advocate.
- If the school is representing your child academically “much better” than they are actually doing just to pacify you, you need an advocate. Schools will have a child “cheat” with the help of staff so they can justify that no new services need to be implemented or what is in place currently does not need to be changed. Time and time again the school states, “your child is doing so well” when in reality that “A” that your child received on the latest test was because a staff member “guided” the student with the correct answers. The results are not true to form.
How many times have you heard from staff, therapists and administration when you go to your child’s school: “Your child is so sweet” or “He/She is such a pleasure” or “He/She is doing so well.” Bluntly put, these are all smoking mirrors to make it seem as if they care and have a handle on what is going on, what is needed and that they truly know your child. Do not let this change your feeling as to what is REALLY going on.
There are a multitude of scenarios however each and every one deserves the time and effort in order to provide an optimal system of learning, socializing and growing. Each case should be approached individually. No two children are alike and therefore my advice is do not let your child’s school lump them into a group. Each and every child should be looked at on a case by case basis. If the school does not do this, then you ABSOLUTELY need an advocate.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and intimidated, you NEED a great advocate to dissect and make sense of everything.
A great advocate will clear time with the school and go and observe your child. By going into the school and watching your child within different venues of their day is a real eye opener. This helps exponentially to get a clearer vision of the situation and allows you to determine what is your next move. Schools depend on the fact that parents look to them for guidance and help. The reality is, there are very few schools who are genuinely looking out for your child’s best interest and want to be an integral part of who that child becomes.
Life is full of learning opportunities, however you need to know when to seize those opportunities. Children with special needs can and will be successful at them, however they need that help. Whether it be from family, friends, school staff or an advocate. They deserve every opportunity that is available. A great advocate can make sense of it all, put into practice what needs to be done and help not only the child to move forward but the family as well.