Parents of children with special needs are required to raise their kids with extreme care and patience. The good news is that they can opt for levels of training that specifically help to accommodate the needs of individuals with disabilities.
Early diagnosis of such conditions allows parents to prepare themselves, psychologically and financially, for the future. Most parents accept and trust the diagnosis, and believe that early intervention will help their child overcome or learn ways to deal with the disability. Yet, some parents are unable to accept the confirmation of their child’s disability, or address the situation without seeking help. However, in such cases, it is best not to neglect the child’s education and seek professional guidance.
In the U.S. education system, children with special needs are entitled to special educational services and accommodation in public schools. Teachers who work with special students are trained on identifying disabilities among students and design customized curriculums for them, based on assessment results, behavioral patterns, and their prior experience.
All K-12 schools throughout the U.S. are mandated by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services to ensure the provision of specialized support for students with learning disabilities; differences are implemented in classrooms specifically based on children’s needs within a large-group setting.
Here are a few tips to help you work better with your child’s special education program:
1. Keep the Conversation Going
Identifying your child’s needs and understanding what he/she is experiencing in school can help you ensure that the needs are met. You need to regularly speak with your child’s instructor to know whether or not he/she is coping in class. Try to analyze how the challenge can be eliminated. Don’t wait for a formal Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting to express your concerns to your child’s teacher or therapist.
Additionally, inculcate a habit for your child to give detailed answers to questions. This will be beneficial for both of you, as it will help him/her understand what he/she needs. Such habits can help children take care of themselves and voice their needs.
Create a communication log for yourself. You can record details related to all phone calls, emails, notes, study material, meetings, and appointments with doctors and therapists that are important. Taking care of a child with special needs may require you to multitask. Organizing the paperwork can help you ensure that you and the school staff are on the same page.
2. Always Plan for Emergencies
Beginning from the early years of his/her childhood, you need to record all possible likes/dislikes, mannerism, and reactions exhibited by your child. These details will help you identify various stimuli which tend to trigger meltdowns or tantrums in your child. It is critical, especially during an emergency like an emotional meltdown, to remove all sensory triggers that are present around your child. This can mean the presence of strangers, heated arguments among people, or even unfamiliar environments.
You need to be aware of your child’s sensory sensitivities, so that you can act on it. Also, always keep elements that can help calm him/her down. It may be his/her favorite jacket, book, or a music record.
Clear the surroundings of all stimuli which make the meltdown or tantrum worse. This may be in the form of loud noises, chaos, or flashing lights. You might even have to physically hold him/her and talk during a meltdown to reduce the symptoms.
3. Be Present for All School Meetings
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), children who receive special education in public schools must have an Individualized Education Program designed by keeping in mind their needs and responsiveness. Extra care is given to identify the child’s strengths, preferences, and interests.
Remember, you are an equally important member of the IEP development team. You should synchronize your efforts with that of the teachers, administrators, and support staff to help your child learn with fun.
Participate in all IEP meetings and parent-teacher conferences to learn about the results of the teaching program and know the areas to work on. Make sure to record all updates on your child’s progress.
4. Know the Special Education Law
As a parent of a child with special needs, you need to learn about your child’s legal rights and the special education law. Even now, there are parents who aren’t aware that their children enjoy the right to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) under the IDEA.
Denying a child this right is a direct violation of federal law and can lead to a lawsuit against the institution liable for such deeds. You need to know the details of the law and learn if your child has the right to extra time when taking exams and other accommodations. In certain situations, you can also request a parent advocate at your child’s school to guide you during important meetings.
Children with special needs can be extremely particular about their routines. Maintaining a healthy rapport with the school and working in partnership with the instructors can be great ways to support your child. Consult an attorney with expertise in special education law to protect your child’s rights. This will help avoid unnecessary complications and ease the learning process for him/her.