Learn Your Special Education Laws, Special Education Rights, and Share IEP Goal Ideas

Jul 16
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by Jess

To Whom it May Concern,

I am the parent of a special needs child.  I was overwhelmed, confused, heart broken and struggling to unravel the complexities before me.

Please do not pass judgement of me without knowing why I did not attend the school PTA breakfasts or community picnics.  Please take a few minutes to understand why I did not take you up on your offer to have lunch or grab a cup of coffee.  Although we see each other in the supermarket or at school functions, I don’t think you really ever knew me, actually, I can guarantee that you did not know me because just as my child was different, so was I.

I was in survival mode to keep my family in tact and to give my child the best quality of life possible.

I was presented with parental decisions that have torn me apart and kept me up more nights than I can possibly remember.

I had spent most days of the week at therapy and doctors appointments and most nights up researching treatments and medication options.

I was forced into isolation at times due to the stigma and misconceptions that are epidemic in our society.

I become proficient at prioritizing my life and learning to let the little things go, to look at others with compassion instead of tabloid material and to turn a blind eye to the stares or ignorant comments.

I did the best I could.

I survived.

I have now become strong, I have become educated and I have become a fierce advocate for parents of special needs children.  The growth did not come without much pain and many tears but it came.

So I ask you, please

The next time you see a parent struggling with a raging child, a child terrified to go into school, a child making odd movements or sounds, a child that seems to be in a world of their own… .Be kind.  Give a smile of recognition for what that parent is going through.  Ask if there is anything you can do to help you, give them a pat on the hand or offer for them to go ahead of you on line.

The next time you have a birthday party for your child remember that their child has a hard time with a lot of sensory issues and social situations.  Please send their child that invitation and know that more times than not they will not be able to attend but appreciate being included.  Understand that in order for their child to go to the party they may need to stay for a little while and please make them feel welcome.  When they let you know that their child cannot make the party consider inviting that child for a one on one playdate or an outing at the park.

The next time you are grading papers please understand that their child struggles, a paper returned with red circles and comments only hurts a child’s self esteem and causes school anxiety. Please understand that when they see the school come up on their caller ID their hearts sink, remember to tell them about all the gains their children are making as well as their deficits.  Take a minute before that call and know that they appreciate all you do and want  a collaborative  relationship in their child’s education.

The next time you are in the teachers lounge, please do not discuss their child.  Please do not make negative comments about their parenting or their child’s behavior, it gets back to them and it gets back to other parents in our community.

The next time you pass the cafeteria and see their child sitting alone please consider inviting that child to eat lunch in your classroom and be your helper that period.  Consider working with  guidance counselor to set up a lunch buddy group in a different area.

The next time they are at the CSE meeting planning their chid’s IEP know that they are educated, informed and confident knowing special education law.  Know that they have found the courage to stand up to conformity and will explore every option to give their child the differentiated educated that will show their gifts and not just their disabilities.  Understand that educating a child with special needs is one of the most difficult tasks a parent can face,  know that the last thing they want is an adversarial relationship.  Please show them the same respect they show you.

The next time you are creating an educational plan please take into consideration that their child may have specific interests or obsessions.  Foster those interests, instead of taking away that art class for a resource class consider adding an art class instead. Think outside the box, these parents do.

The next time you see that child in a wheelchair unable to speak or control their movements, don’t stare, don’t look away, say hello.  Do not assume that because this child is nonverbal that they are not intelligent or do not understand the awkwardness that you feel.  Take a moment out of your day to show kindness, support a parent enduring incredible pain and just give them a smile.

The next time your child comes home telling you how Johnny or Susie is so weird, take the time to teach about differences.  Take the time to talk  about compassion, acceptance and special needs. Please remember that your child learns from you.  Be a role model, mirror respect and discourage gossip.

The next time you hear a comment about how out of style these kids are, educate about tactile sensitivities and the fact that these kids cannot tolerate many textures and fits.  Imagine what it would feel like to have sandpaper in your stilettos or tight elastic holding on your tie.

The next time you see an out of control child do not assume it is bad parenting.  Understand that many of these disorders have an organic basis, are biological and are real illnesses. When you hear the word mental illness, take out the “mental” and remember  ”illness”.

Know that it is this generation that can stomp the stigma and create a world of acceptance.

The next time other parents are talking about “Those Kids” be our heroes, stand up for us.

The next time you see a special needs child know they are not just special in their needs but in their brilliance as well.

Take the time to meet our children.  Take the time to know us.

About the Author

Marianne Russo is Founder, President and Host of The Coffee Klatch. The Coffee Klatch is an interactive forum on Blog Talk Radio and Twitter bringing you internationally renowned expert guests including award winning authors, psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, advocates, celebrity activists and representatives from the world’s most respected children’s foundations.

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Dear School Personnel, Community Members and Neighbors, 5.0 out of 5 based on 7 ratings
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10 Responses to “Dear School Personnel, Community Members and Neighbors”

  1. Thank you… I could not have said it better myself<3

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    • This is such a great letter .. I like the part where it says not to fill the notebooks up with red circles and marks

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  2. a wonderful reminder to us all!!!

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    Rating: +3 (from 3 votes)
  3. This article says so many of the things we all want to say, but don’t ever get the time. NOW I feel understood. Thank you.

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    Rating: +2 (from 2 votes)
  4. If only the people who need to read this would be the ones reading it instead of those of us who already know. Honestly before I became a special needs mom I wouldn’t have needed a blog post to tell me but apparently some people are perpetually unskilled in the art of putting themselves in someone else’s shoes.

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  5. What a wonderful reminder (or learning moment). As a parent of a special needs child and as a retired teacher I agree very strongly with this article with only one exception. I would encourage teachers to talk about the child in the teacher’s lounge. Certainly not in a negative way but other teachers can be a great resource. Many, many times I have been given great insight and ideas from teachers who were not directly associated with my son or some of my students. Because of his/her past experiences with a similar child a teacher can offer a fresh look and wonderful ideas for working with and helping the child. Of course prudence and confidentiality are to be honoured but never dismiss the wisdom and experience of those who may not be on the team directly working with the child.

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  6. Great letter! As an autism specialist, I am often angered by TEACHERS or other staff members who have no consideration for our children. Mine is labeled “autism SDC Severe.” Most children came to our placement having played with playdough, cut and paste, traced primary alphabet letters for the prior years of elementary school. However, we “teach up”-not down. We expect our students to achieve their best, be everything they can be, learn all they can. All have gone from not understanding simple addition to four now doing ALL operations with negative and positive intergers, most can multiply and divide. All are learning to keyboard lessons due to OT issues with fine motor skills. They have shown us they are usually more adept with the computer than we are without classes. Manners are expected to be appropriate at all times. Even those (two) who have articulation issues, can use short phrases to express wants, needs, desires and emotions. Last week in Spanish class, the quiz was a little difficult. However, they know they may use any tools left up or in the classroom. We have a few old Mac desktops and one of my students with articulation issues–BUT extremely bright–got on the computer to find the definition of three words he did not know. He had found (unbeknown to me) “google translator” and quickly added the correct definitions to his quiz. In our class everyone looks out for each other. Possibly because of treatment in the past, I’m not really sure. But, this young man quickly let two less adept students in Spanish know he had found the “key” and helped them complete the test. Wrong–I don’t think so. He showed each how to use the translator, they helped each other in the learning process and felt great that they had found the answers by themselves! In less than two years, all have come up at least three or more levels on state tests. Do they still have issues? Of course. But they are learning ALL the time. They no longer tantrum when they do not understand. They say things like “May I have more time?; “Please explain again.” Their spelling words are not only age and grade appropriate; but are words relating to their disorder so that they know and understand why they act, learn, believe as they do. Do we have a lot to learn and a long ways to go? Absolutely! But in less than two full years, there is no tantrumming, self abusive behaviors, screaming, hitting–nothing. They LOVE being in school. They have friends from a “reverse mainstreaming” mentor program where the mentors come to our room during the day and after school. If mentors have good behavior and finish class work; they are invited to go on field trips and they “fight” for that privilege. Our students are “protected” from rude people by our mentors. If anyone is inappropriate around our students and mentors hear or see them; they will politely, but firmly let any student or adult know that their behavior is not allowed around our students. On a recent field trip to Pizza My Heart; students had to wait a very long time and an adult was horribly rude to one student. He apologized to the man stating, “I am sorry you are angry, you must be having a bad day. Perhaps if you do your breathing (we practice breathing exercises when upset) you will feel better.” The man was astounded and quickly changed his behavior. After the incident, the owner stated our class was the best that had ever visited his restaurant. He wanted to know if they were a GATE (gifted) class. My students, for the most part, understood. One laughed and stated, “No, we are the severe class. We all have autism, but no one knows what it is. We’re just different, but we try to be good ALL the time.” He paid our bill (owner) and said we could come back once a month “on him.” So, I heartily agree with this letter. If people could just take time to understand, to be human, life would be much easier for our students, children and family members.

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  7. I am glad I got to read this article. It will help me be a better preson to everyone. I hope I can make things better and not worse.

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  8. I could not agree more with the opinion of the writer. I think we need to be more understanding of the children and the families from which they come. My heart goes out to you and yours. We have much to learn from your life long concerns. You are strong and you are admired. I am not worthy to judge you or your family. I only wish I could help you more. Your letter helps me to understand you, and I hope to read more in the future. Thank You

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Dear School Personnel, Community Members and Neighbors

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