School Guide Magazine

Special needs

Posted June 6, 2007 2:00 p.m. EDT
Updated June 6, 2007 2:44 p.m. EDT

You have a good education, and chances are it was a challenge for you and your parents. Now, you have to work toward your own child’s education. If your specialneeds child has a wheelchair, learning disabilities, or maybe something more challenging; you could anticipate becoming more involved than the average parent.

All children are worth the investment of securing the best possible education, no matter what circumstances surround you and your family. It may be an uphill struggle, but it’s not impossible. Here are a few thoughts and suggestions that may help you plan for and insure the highest quality education for your child.

Prepare a Medical History: Do you have a good knowledge and a written record of your child’s medical history? What conditions make your child special and how will these conditions bear influence in the educational arena?  Are your child’s immunizations up to date? Do you have a medical specialist? Will any medicines need to be administered while at school? Any known allergies? Who will be able to care for your child in an emergency? Having this information readily available can assist care providers and educators greatly.

Assess Current Development: Do you have a current assessment of your child’s physical, emotional, and social development? What strategies work best for you in helping, guiding, nurturing, and maintaining order? Keeping a current assessment up to date is the best way to know how to set immediate and future goals.

Create an Educational Plan: Unless you are an educator, it may be difficult to know exactly what your child needs to learn. But if you know where your child is developmentally, and what your child is already capable of, you are in the best place to help. A discussion with your child’s educator will enable you to work together to set those challenging educational goals, and plan how they may be reached.

Current Care Needs: Now that you’ve got a list of special care needs in your mind, find out if the school can provide them. Is the school adequately staffed and physically capable of taking care of whatever situations may be presented? Talk to the school’s medical staff, teachers, and the principal. Schools should be in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, but is the building equipped and laid out in such a way that quality care can be provided quickly and easily? Take a look around your child’s current or prospective school and think about how they will get around, and what kind of help may be needed. Ask what might make it easier?

Transportation: Getting to and from school may be as simple as a school bus, or perhaps special transportation is provided by the school system. Before you drive yourself crazy with getting to soccer practice, ask the school system what they have to offer. Even smaller local schools are creating visibility online, so you may be able to simply read from a website or drop an e-mail to the school administration to find out.

Seek out Social Support: It has been said that “many hands make light work.” If you can team up with people who can help, working toward quality education will become easier. If you make friends with people who have a similar family situation, you’ll have someone to share with and generate ideas of care and education. Finding other people who understand your situation could also help plug-in your own social life for a few nights out.

Research for alternative resources: Everyone could use a little help. But sometimes even a good network of friends and doctors has limitations. Are there any external support sources you haven’t considered? Socially conscious foundations like the Shriners or Lions, churches, government bodies, or the PTA may all be ready and able to help in some way. There may be an opportunity available that you didn’t know was there. Some good places to look for additional help might include your medical specialist, teacher, pastor, telephone book, or the internet. Make a “needs” list, make a “dreams” list, ask pointed questions and see who answers. The door might not open unless you knock.