Part 1 of a never-ending story!
Some of the ways that schools fail special needs children: communication, training, allowing good teachers to teach, involving parents, doing the right thing, honesty, paying professionals with special education what they are worth, testing, lack of outside time, class size, providing resources to help parents at home or where to find help in the community. If you are a special needs parents I am sure that you could add to the list from your experiences.
School was not easy. Our biggest problem began when what the group of professionals that conduct the evaluation at the district annex building tell you is not how it actually works! We felt lied too, confused and frustrated. We were trying too hard to help our child function daily at home and school. We were not on the same page with school.
Our biggest problem was communication and getting an understanding of the program we had placed our son within. The processes and procedures that were explained when our IEP was initially created was not anything like how school actually worked!
My biggest piece of advice was that I didn’t schedule a conference with the teachers and team at the school before my son started. When you decide to use the public program and have a meeting with the assessment team you should also have to have a team meeting at the school prior to your child’s start date. This helps to create a common ground between teachers and parents. I would also request that an administrator be present. If you ever have a concern with a teacher you will have to speak with the administrator to find a solution. Teachers are getting a new student at almost half way point of the school year that is very young and delayed. It took a long time for us to all be working for Max together.
I also recommend requesting the same teacher if possible. So, the blended 3,4,5 program is half ESE and half general population. If you child starts at age 3 then I would at the end of the school year request that the child stay in the same environment with the same staff. Once you have a system that works for communication you don’t want to alter or change it.
Our communication problem was and is compounded by a nonverbal child. My child will probably NEVER come home and tell me how his day was at school with details and a story line. My son cannot tell me about how he feels or what he thinks regarding how the class, teacher or student is interacting with him. Unfortunately, we believe that our nonverbal child and other children like him become easy targets for neglect or abuse.
Because of negative experiences within school, we are heavily involved with events, communication, and therapy. As a parent, I cannot trust openly or freely. I must protect and communicate for my child. He has to be brave and resilient to go to school everyday and we have to keep our guard up looking and listening for potential problems. The moment we think there could be a problem we contact the teacher or principal.
When it comes to all the ways schools fail special needs children, we as parents have to be the best advocate for our child. We have to tell teachers and staff members when they or the district are failing or coming up short on our child’s needs. If you can’t be at the school, email and call regularly and take hours from work for at least two conferences a year. We have to hold the school district responsible for early intervention and education of special needs children. We must demand access to services medically necessary for our children and fight for our child’s right to a free appropriate public education.