25 Things Parents of Children with Special Needs Want Their Kids’ Teachers to Know.

school_etlA year or so ago I gave a presentation for people who are training to become special education teachers and to prepare, I asked the parents on the Easy to Love Facebook page what advice they’d give these future teachers. The advice they gave was spot-on – not just for people training to work with   kids specifically designated “exceptional,” but for ALL teachers, since most of our kids are mainstreamed.

Here’s the advice. It’s wonderful. Pass it around. Link to it. Print it out. Share.
  1. Children with “invisible” special needs, like ADHD, PDD, SPD, PBD, FASD, OCD, Anxiety,  ODD, Autism, Asperger’s, and many others manifest their disabilities behaviorally. It is EASY to blame the parents for these behavioral problems. It is ACCURATE to see these behaviors as a result of their brain dysfunction.
  2. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Communicate! We can’t help if we don’t know what’s going on.
  3. On the flip side, if we over-communicate, cut us some slack. We are not helicopter moms, we are experts in our own children’s special needs. They, and we, are often misinterpreted and we’ve found that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Let us squeak! It’s not nosiness. It’s not pestering. Really, most days, we would much rather say “It’s your school, you handle it, don’t call me”– but we want our kids to be successful. Which means being their best advocates. Which means we call or email as much as is necessary.
  4. Most kids with neuro-developmental and neuro-behavioral disorders keep it together in school, then let it all out at home. This is not because school is a more stable and structured environment. This is not because you can manage our children better than we can! This is because at home they feel safe, they can relax, and they take out their frustrations on the people who love them best. Believe us when we tell you that they do this. Realize that we are jealous that they can keep it together when they are with you.
  5. Treat us and talk to us with respect. Yes, you are a professional and you may have years of experience. But we LIVE with our children day in and day out.
  6. As parents we are our child’s best advocates. We know our children better than anyone. We are not outsiders, but are part of the IEP TEAM, treat us like the other team members. It should never be an “us against them” mentality. We all want what’s in the best interest of the child and that can’t happen if there is a line drawn in the sand.
  7. Realize that we know that our children can be exhausting, we live with them.
  8. Reach out to us and make us your allies because we will do whatever it takes to help our kids.
  9. Try to LIKE our children despite their behavior.
  10. Don’t yell at our children or punish their symptoms. You cannot punish or consequence brain differences away.
  11. Don’t give an ADHD boy soup to take home from cooking class in a resealable plastic bag and then ask why an earth he put it in his school bag.
  12.  EVERY child can learn, but not the same way.
  13. Please study multiple methods of teaching and never stop looking for answers.
  14. Never underestimate the power of sensory dysfunctions in students.
  15. Please listen to what I tell you about my child, I may not be a teacher or a doctor but I do know my child.
  16. Most children do not choose to be “bad” or “irritating”. In fact, they’d rather not be seen that way. Help them be good!
  17. Accommodations, kind words or showing a child that you are cheering for them can make a world of difference.
  18. Be patient with my child, it isn’t that he/she isn’t trying hard enough and doesn’t want to please you, it’s that some days he/she is simply doing their best to stay centered.
  19. Thank you for taking on the challenging kids. We didn’t have a choice in it – you did.
  20. I’m sorry. I’m sorry he disrupts the regular classroom, that he makes your job difficult and that he tries your patience.  And he’s sorry, too. More often than not he is not deliberately choosing to act this way.
  21. Just because you “knew” or “worked with” a child with ____ before, does not necessarily mean you know how to work with MY child. The label/diagnosis does NOT define the child. You do not know EVERYTHING about the child because of his/her diagnosis. First and foremost he/she is an individual with likes, dislikes, dreams, passions, strengths, and challenges, just like anyone else. Please take the time to recognize, acknowledge, and appreciate that.
  22. Twice Exceptional students DO exist!
  23. Please follow my child’s 504/IEP and help her to be the best that she can be and to reach her potential.
  24. If the hair doesn’t get combed or something like that- there is just so much energy to get through the day on. Cut us some slack.
  25. It takes a special teacher to love our special children. Everyday will not be roses and daises and sunshine… but there will be those special days that your heart will melt or you will beam with pride when they have made a major accomplishment, helping you remember WHY you chose this profession. These children see you every day and will grow to either love you or fear you… make sure you choose wisely.

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A GREAT book on how to survive IEPs and be an advocate for your child:

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