Parents of Exceptional Children: We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know
How many times have you said, “I didn’t know that”? If you are like many parents who have an exceptional child, you may have said that once before.
What don’t we know?
We don’t know what to think, what to ask or even what to believe. When our children enter grade school, we rely on teachers and administrators to hold our hand and tell us what to do. Unfortunately, we also allow them to tell us what to think and then we believe what they tell us. We are simply overwhelmed with information. Unless the educational team clues us in on certain ideas or supports, we take their word as gold. At that point we only know what they tell us.
Why don’t we know?
Parents of children who learn differently, most times, do not have educational comparisons. Since all children are different, they reach milestones at various paces. Therefore, they also meet academic challenges differently. Not to say this is a bad thing, it is just different. For that reason, parents cannot relate to comparisons in which there might be data which explains why our children think or act in the manner in which they do; or not learning and meeting expectations. Everything associated with our own child is through trial and error. We don't know what our next step will be until the challenge presents itself.
How can we know?
I have asked myself this question many times. Sometimes I would leave a parent-teacher conference and wonder why it took so long to change my kids’ goals. I would also wonder why in the world a teacher did not give me the information to make an informed decision. At first, I wanted to blame the teacher, but soon realized, I have just as much responsibly to learn the system. While the teacher’s try, we have to remember that schools are bound by their own administrative guidelines and policies. There is no rule-book that teaches how to teach a special education student. There are only ideas backed up by history and data, but that doesn’t mean our children will fit into anyone of those categories. We also must remember the teachers are part of our “team” and we should use them to our advantage. We can learn the system by communication, trust and patience.
I want to know
The start of the school year is the perfect time to ask questions. As each school year is different, so is each class and teacher. The accommodations will change with successful completion of the goals, but so again, will the teachers and the curriculum. Every year provides an opportunity to work with a new educator and IEP team. It is ok to question the experts. I like to think that many educators welcome feedback; which supports work and which do not. Teachers want to do a good job and see their students move forward. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
For me, I want to know all I can about how to support the teacher. If I support the teacher’s ideas, I feel comfortable knowing the teacher will support mine. Looking back, the biggest way I learned “what I didn’t know,” was supporting the teachers’ efforts but understanding the need for communication.
C.C. Malloy lives in Greensboro and is a steadfast supporter of children with a disability. 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.