Raising a child with special needs is a lot of work. Parents struggle to get the services and support their children need. These services and supports are necessary so children can reach their potential. Parents make mistakes that hinder their ability to help their children. Avoid these four mistakes, and make your struggle easier.
1. Ruining your relationship with your children’s schools
Arguing with school staff is not an effective way for parents to help their children. Your children will probably attend that school for several years. Parents are more likely to receive cooperation from school staff by maintaining amicable relationships with them. If you disagree with something the school is doing, you should complain. However, make sure your complaint is assertive, not argumentative.
2. Not being proactive
In an ideal world, children’s therapists, clinicians and educators would continuously evaluate your children’s needs and arrange appropriate interventions. Unfortunately, our medical and education systems do not have the resources to do this. So, parents must make things happen for their children. To do this effectively, they must arm themselves with information.
Learn as much as you can about your children’s disabilities and legal rights. Patient is a great website for information on medical conditions including autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, etc. Information on special needs is also available on the HSE’s website. Other good websites with information on medical conditions and learning disabilities include:
Lots of information on special education, disability law, special needs, support groups and social welfare entitlements is on the website of the Special Needs Parents Association. Another resource for this information is Citizen Information’s website.
When you understand your children's diagnoses and their legal rights, you can assess whether your children are receiving the full support they are entitled to. You are then in a better position to interact with your children's educators and medical providers.
3. Not networking with other parents
Other parents of children with special needs are a tremendous resource. Parents who do not network are at a disadvantage. Other parents give you lots of information, including:
  • How different schools are supporting children with needs like your own child.
  • Emotional support.
  • What teachers and school staff are like, and the best way to approach them.
  • Tips for Individualized Education Plans (IEPs).
  • Suggestions for helpful books and websites.
  • Types of accommodations made for their children in terms of classwork, homework and testing.
  • Recommendations for medical providers, therapists or other professionals.
  • Best places to buy special needs aids, equipment and toys.
Even if you work full-time, make time to network with other parents. To meet other parents:
  • Join a local support group.
  • Check for local groups on Facebook and other social media.
  • Talk to other parents when you pick up or drop off your children.
  • Go to parents' association meetings.
  • Get involved in and/or attend school activities.
Your work will pay off with the knowledge you acquire.
4. Not keeping good records
Even if everything is going smoothly with your children, you never know when an issue will develop. Therefore, it is helpful to have records of all your interactions with clinicians, therapists and school staff. The simplest thing is to get a notebook and jot down events involving your children in chronological order. For example, if you spoke with your child’s teacher about homework, write down the date and what you discussed. In addition, remember to confirm all agreements in writing!
Special Education Advocate



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