As educators, we all know that put as simply as possible, our main “job” is to help students learn and grow along with collaborating and communicating with parents.
It seems like it should be rather simple but, of course, this is far from the case in any teaching situation. Then add in students with special needs and this adds an entirely new level to the collaboration and communication process.
Having spent the majority of my teaching career working as a Primary Learning Support teacher, I’ve spent many meetings, phone calls and conferences with a heavy heart as parents tried to understand, digest and accept, the news we were delivering. It was in these meetings, and upon reflection afterward, that I found myself wishing there was an “official” part of the IEP process to remind parents of children with special needs just how incredible they are and how much they are valued.
So, I give you the first five things that I wish I could include in IEP’s, for the parents.
5 Things I Wish Were In IEP’s;
1. You are learning each and every day – and that’s okay – As with any kid, each day is an opportunity to learn something new about them. However, when it comes to children with special needs, this is even more true. What worked one day, may not work the next, but it may work the day after that…and that’s okay. Don’t be afraid to try something many different ways, even within the same day, until you find what works. Every day is going to be different, and every day may bring a new obstacle and a new celebration. Just keep those tricks and ideas in your back pocket and keep trying and learning! (And know that we are likely doing the same thing in the classroom!)
2. Make time to let your kid just be a kid –Children with special needs, no matter the disability, have to work extra hard to get through the school day. From academics to recess, to group work to participating in class to therapies to social skills – many, or all, of these things require extra effort for a student with special needs. Even with the necessary supports in place, they still need to work harder –all day long. So when your child comes home, don’t be afraid to let them be a kid – and just play – and lounge. Yes, homework and reinforcement are important. But so is just let your child enjoy being just that…a child! There should be a section reserved for this area in the IEP!
3. It’s okay to laugh – As a parent of a child with special needs, you’re going to work harder than you ever thought possible, but you’re also going to have some of the best stories to share! Don’t be afraid to laugh at the silly stories that happen, and share those stories with those you love and trust. There’s nothing wrong with laughing – especially with your child. And as your child grows up, you’ll enjoy sharing these laughs again and again, with them!
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4. Ask for Help – Parenting is far from easy. But parenting a child with special needs can be even farther from that “easy line.” Due in large part to an IEP, you’re likely going to have more after school activities, special education tutoring, maybe more doctors’ appointments, and maybe even more therapies. Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for help. Share carpool duties just like other parents would, or ask for advice – but just ask. People will be happy to help.
5. Forgive Yourself – Don’t waste precious energy beating yourself up – for anything. You have more than enough other things to spend that energy on. Sure, you may make a mistake, we all do/will. Even your child’s teacher will make mistakes. But no amount of torturing yourself with the “what if’s” or “I should have’s” will change it, and it certainly won’t make you feel any better. Often, the hardest decisions are those with no right answer anyway, so just believe in yourself…and forgive yourself.
Just remember that even though the main topics in an IEP meeting are your child’s social, behavioral and academic progress, there are SO many more important things your child’s teacher wants you to know. So, take a deep breath, know that you and your child are deeply cared about, and you are doing an amazing job as a parent!
~ Diana Chase