There is no such thing as the “perfect child.”
When it comes to our children, we expect them to be the epitome of “perfect”. However, there is no such thing as the perfect child nor the perfect qualities that a child should possess. The perfect child is one who accepts his/or her differences, uniqueness, and has the ability to strive for success even if there are obstacles in the way. As parents, we want our children to be happy, healthy and capable of becoming independent learners. In some cases, individuals are given the chance to take care of a special kind of child- a child who (in society’s eyes) is not perfect or “normal”. This special child may be gifted with talents unbeknownst to him/or her, but with the proper support of loving parents and professionals, this child can be the most successful person that he/or she can be. On the other hand, this particular child may lack certain abilities when it comes to their cognitive development and social skills. It may be very difficult for the child to perform the most simplest of tasks that deal with memory, attention, problem-solving and even interacting with others. This may cause the child to feel incapable of keeping up with his/or her peers, but with support and advocacy from the parents, the child’s success is endless.
You are your child’s advocate! It is your duty to know your child’s rights!
As a parent of a special needs child, you are not given a handbook or how-to guide on the different steps you have to take . It’s up to you to research and do your best to obtain knowledge, in order to provide the best life for your child. With that being said, there are different tips you should keep in mind.
- You are not ALONE!
Build yourself a support system with special needs professionals, your child’s teachers and other parents of special needs children. There are people going through the same ordeal as you and it doesn’t hurt to have a shoulder to lean on when times get tough.
- Keep yourself informed.
Educate yourself with the legal aspects of special education services and your child’s rights. It’s crucial to know what rights and services your child has in order for them to continue to get these benefits as he/or she moves into adulthood. The most ideal information that you should familiarize yourself with is the Special Education Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights consists of six different parts.
Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)- No matter how severe your child’s disability is, he/or she will be provided with the appropriate educational support at no cost to you. Some of these services include occupational therapy, physical therapy and mobility.
Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)- Your child has the right to learn alongside students without disabilities. Each state should also provide a series of alternative placements.
Individualized Education Plan (IEP)- The IEP consists of several different factors that support the needs of the child. These factors include the present levels of the child’s academics, yearly academic goals along with the purpose for specific instruction, education services that will be provided, plans and length of the services, the extent of the opportunities given to the child in general education programs, and annual evaluations to determine what goals have been met or need to be re-evaluated.
Procedural Due Process- This is security for the parent and child. It pertains to the confidentiality and examination of records, allows the child to receive independent evaluation (not in school), notifies the parents of any changes to their child’s educational placement, along with rights to impartial hearings if a disagreement were to occur at an IEP meeting.
Nondiscriminatory Assessment- Before your child is placed in specific services, he/or she must undergo an assessment facilitated by a multidisciplinary team.
Parental Participation- Parents are required and expected to participate in the goals made for their child’s education.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)- A federal law pertaining to free education for qualified students with disabilities.
- Develop a relationship with adults involved in your child’s education.
Have you ever heard of the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child?” Well, in this case, it definitely does! Communicating and developing relationships with your child’s teachers, administration, counselors and other SPED professionals is a key component to your child’s educational success. The best way to know that you have a support system behind your child is through weekly or even daily communication with these professionals. Keep track of your child’s behavior and academics at home, so that you are able to compare observations with your child’s teachers and other SPED professionals during IEP meetings. Remember, you and your child do not have to do this alone.
- Help your child develop a growth-mindset.
What exactly is the growth-mindset, you ask? It is the belief that your abilities and intelligence can be developed over time. You accept obstacles as challenges that you’re willing to learn from. Never lower the expectations you have for your child, even if he/or she has special needs- effort matters more than his/or her abilities. As you help your child to develop a growth-mindset, you build a pathway that he/or she can continues to walk down into adulthood. Success is not only about being the smartest person, but it is about putting in the effort and willingness to learn and grow. Your child may not be at the appropriate level just “yet”, but with your help and guidance, he/or she can become successful.
- Learn from your child.
You are your child’s nurturer, protector and most importantly- advocate. In order to be the best that you can be for your child, you need to learn from them. Learn about their likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses- his/or her personality is more important than his/or her abilities. Talk about your child in a way that he/or she knows that you are proud. Boost your child’s confidence so that he/or she wants to grow and experience his/or her full potential. Be your child’s number one supporter especially when it comes to the tasks that may seem easy for most children. Your child may lack certain abilities or have a slower time processing information, but it does not mean that your child is incapable of reaching his/or her full potential. Be patient and learn from your child. Life is more meaningful and satisfying when you know that your child can be successful even if he/or she is different from other children.
Parents, do not fret or feel like you and your child are fighting this battle alone. There are families also fighting the same battle as you, and there are professionals willing to join you on this journey. You are not alone. Remember that. Ponder on those four words… Believe in them. It is up to you as a parent and your child’s number one support and advocate to provide him/or her with the information that he/or she needs to know when entering adulthood. Your child’s learning is your learning. Your child’s success is your success.