Parents of children with special health care needs often feel harried and rushed.
A typical student goes to school and comes home. Completes the homework if there is any, and all is well. This is often not the case with children that have special health care needs. Couple that with the IEP process that can be overwhelming and any parent can feel put off by the school district.
As a parent of three kids with Special Needs, at one time, I felt left out of the process. I developed a series of steps each year that I utilize to ensure that I keep involved, and that the teachers know who I am.
- During the IEP, ensure that you voice your thoughts. Ask questions. No one knows your child better than you. As a parent, you are an integral part of the team.
- If possible, before the first day of school, take time to visit the classroom with your child and meet the new teacher. Trade contact information with the teacher and ensure that the teacher knows that you are available to them.
- Know your rights. The team should share IEP documentation with you. One of the things they should give you is a rights handbook. This is mandatory. This book has important information, so make sure to at least browse it. No one expects you to memorize it.
- Communicate. With one of our boys, we shared a notebook/journal with the special education teacher. This notebook highlighted important things about our child’s day. Sleep pattern, any issues from the night before, whether or not he ate breakfast, how he woke up that morning, any issues that came up right before school. Any thing, no matter how inconsequential that could affect his day was documented.The teacher did the same thing. Except they documented how the day went. Did he eat lunch? how did recess go? did he play with others? or stay by himself. Medications were listed, behaviors, anything that was necessary for us to know.Share this journal with the doctor. Share it with the teacher in the next year. Keep it as a record of your child’s growth.
- Attend conferences and meetings. Sure it takes time away from work, but it is a way to be involved, and show that you are involved in your child’s education.
- Keep a journal of your own concerns and questions. If you are concerned about it, ask questions.
- Don’t let things fester. Animosity will harm any relationship.
For a while, when I went to the school, the teachers would run and hide. I questioned everything.
One thing that we challenged the school to do was “document one positive thing about our child each day.”
Capitalize on that positive. As soon as our son came home, he handed us his journal, and we read about his day. We didn’t forget about the things he needed to work on, but we didn’t focus on them either.
In the end, we moved our son to a residential psychiatric facility. This has improved the relationship that we have with our district and made it easier for everyone to work with our other kids in the school.
Above all remember this. You have a measure of control over the relationship that you have with your school and your child’s teacher. I guarantee that you will have some teachers that you just don’t like. Remember, your child is not going to be in the same teacher’s classroom forever.
A last tip. Make sure you are communicating with your spouse or significant other as much as possible. The two of you don’t need to agree on every point, but you do need to make sure that you are communicating with each other about your child and the school.
In time, you can turn your relationship with your child’s school into a positive one. It takes time and effort on the parts of everyone involved.
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