IEP, MDT, IFSP, Special Education, Autism, ASD, Learning Disability, Articulation, Phonology, Syntax, Reading Level….There are so many words and acronyms that are thrown at parents in the first few weeks after a special education placement. As a parent, it can be easy to simply accept the advice of teachers, occupational therapists, speech therapists, psychologist, doctors, and other professionals because you feel unqualified. A parent may feel like any questions, concerns, or comments they have are not needed and unwelcome. This is not true.
Express your concerns
I am a speech-language pathologist. I have been in many, many, many meetings with families and other professionals in which the parent listens passively, not saying anything. If you are the parent of a child in special education, I want you to know this. I want to know your opinions. I want to know your concerns. I want to know if something I am saying sounds a little off. Yes, I am an expert in speech and language development. However, you are an expert in your child. You spend day in and day out with your child. You know what he/she is capable of at home. You know if expectations at school are too high or too low. You know what goals would be most beneficial. You. know. your. child.
Share your experiences
I appreciate that you trust me to help your child grow and develop. I feel honored that you deem me qualified to work with your baby in areas in which he/she struggles. I know that it can be heartbreaking to watch your child suffer or struggle. I want you to know that the teachers and professionals who work with your child are doing everything in their power to decrease that struggle. Yet, we need your help as well. We need you to tell us what does and does not work at home. We need you to share your experiences. We need you to voice your concerns if you think a goal or plan or treatment method might be ineffective.
One of the biggest factors in student success that I have seen is parental involvement. I understand that there are outside factors that influence the amount of time you spend working with your child – second/third jobs, multiple children, extra-curriculars, etc. No matter what hand you have been dealt, you are the biggest influence in your child’s life. You are their safety net. You are their protector. You are their advocate. I encourage you to stay involved in their life. I encourage you to do your homework. Students in special education often need support all day long. If a professional has suggested certain things you can implement at home to help your child, please at least try. Again, I know it’s hard. You have a million things to think about and another item on your to-do list can cause stress. However, if you and all the educators and professionals are on the same page, your child is going to blossom.
Special bonds exist
The last thing I want you to know if that we love your child. Special educators often think of the students they work with as fondly as they do their own children. We develop special bonds with our students. We refer to them as our students. We celebrate their successes. We brag about their accomplishments to their other teachers. We experience pain when we see them suffer and struggle. We remember your child for many years even after they are grown. So again, thank you for sharing your child with us. We are truly blessed to do the work that we do.