Back-to-School: Ideas for Exceptional Parents of Exceptional Children
Be proactive for your exceptional child when the school doors open.
Image provided by C. C. Malloy.
Classroom materials, class schedules and transportation are just a few of the items parents check off during this time of year. For parents of exceptional children, be sure to add red tape to the supply list.
Our work never ends. Summer offers a bit of a respite, but for the most part, we continue the education process through the summer months. We know our children well, but should consider the new teacher. He or she most likely has never met our child before the beginning of the school year. Unfortunately, we must start from scratch every year and play the education game all over again. I like to refer to this time frame as “teaching the teacher.” The start of the school year is crucial in gaining the most effective education for our children.
Meet and greet
Meet quickly! Did I mention quickly? At this time of year, teachers are learning about all their students. In addition, educators are attending meetings and completing lesson plans. While every child is indeed important, we must be reminded that any school, public or private has its challenges at the beginning of the school year. A short note with a phone number and an email address allows the teacher to contact parents when it is convenient. I have been known to send in a bag of classroom supplies with a quick note attached. If anything, teachers recognized right away that I was ready to support their efforts. Parents can use this quick interaction to mention the need to set up a formal conference to address goals and accommodations.
Provide a copy of your child’s accommodations
Don’t assume that just because your child is in the same school with the same case manager that the regular education teacher (or teachers) has all the information. Teachers do a great job of communicating the needs of their students, but it never hurts to be proactive. As student growth continues within each school, classrooms have become overcrowded. The new teacher will be pleased you provided a basic rundown of your child’s accommodations, but the entire IEP is not necessary at this time. The teacher most likely won’t have time to read it anyway. One parent of a high school freshman, Ebony W., thinks it is important parents help teachers learn their child’s organizational system, and says, “Whatever little pointers parents can give to the teacher can make the transition easier for the team.” Parent involvement is important in the beginning for a smooth transition.
Keep the emotion out of it
Make sure your kidlet has what he or she needs. This is the honeymoon period between the student, the teacher and the parents. There is bound to be frustration and confusion. Getting emotional only invites further tension. Each school year provides parents with another opportunity to learn the special education language. Unfortunately, we don’t know what we don’t know. Having an understanding of the special education process might limit anxiety. Special education is different, but it doesn’t have to be.
Your kid will be OK
No matter what the challenges, your child will learn. While it is hard to give our babies to a stranger for more than half their waking hours, it is also hard to step backward. Take everything you’ve learned raising your child and then use it to your child’s advantage. Most of all, enjoy the challenges.
Ebony W. advises, “Spend lots of time with your kids. It helps them to grow and develop and it also helps the parent learn to be a better parent.”
C.C. Malloy is a disability advocate and steadfast supporter of special needs children. Any information here should not be considered legal advice and counsel should be sought for personal educational guidance. For additional support, please visit her website, Bizigal's Exceptional Blooms.