As special needs parents, we have a lot of responsibilities. One of these is advocating for our children with special needs. Although medical providers explain our children’s disabilities at the time of their diagnoses, much of this information is lost as we adjust to this new situation.
It is important however, for us parents to become experts on our children’s disabilities and special needs because we are responsible for managing our children’s conditions and helping them reach their potential.
Here are three reasons parents should become experts on their children’s condition.
1. Special Needs Parents Need to Educate Teachers
Many teachers have limited knowledge or experience dealing with children who have special needs. Even experienced teachers do not know children as well as their parents do. Every child is different and even children with the same diagnosis are affected differently. Parents must act as resources for their children’s teachers.
When your special needs child has a new teacher, meet with the teacher and explain how the condition affects your child. Tell the teacher what works for your child. Give the teacher guidance on how to handle your child’s specific issues. If your child has meltdowns, tell the teacher what triggers the meltdowns. Explain techniques the teacher can use to calm your child during a meltdown. Write out a list of tips for your children’s teachers, so they have something to refer to through the year.
2. Special Needs Parents Help Determine the Supports Their Children Need
Parents want their children to reach their academic potential. For children with special needs this means having proper support in school.
Even if your child’s school or doctor recommends specific supports or assistance for your child, there is probably an administrator who can overrule their recommendations. For example, in Ireland if your child’s doctor recommends that your child have a full-time Special Needs Assistant (SNA), your Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) can over-rule this recommendation. Therefore, special needs parents must advocate for the type and amount of support their children receive. Understanding your children’s special needs is crucial to your ability to advocate for your children.
3. Special Needs Parents Teach the Experts
Your children’s medical experts are just that – experts on the medical aspects of your children’s special needs. Many are unaware of the criteria your children must meet to qualify for Individualised Education Plans (IEPs), resource time, homework accommodations, special needs assistants, and other supports.
Parents must combine knowledge of their children’s conditions with the requirements for educational supports to help their children’s clinicians. So if you need a report from your child’s doctor to support a request for help at school, speak with your child’s medical provider. Your job is to get your child’s doctor to advocate for your child in her report.
Doctors and other clinicians are busy. By providing information for the report, you are helping your child’s clinician. Explain the criteria your child must meet to qualify for extra help and the issues the report must cover. Also provide this information in writing. Ask to review the doctor’s report before it is finalised. Alternatively, draft a report for your child’s doctor. Give the hard copy and the Word file to the doctor as a starting point – explain that you know how busy he is and that you are trying to help him.