Sending your child to school is a BIG deal for the parent of a child with Autism. It’s not just an education for our children. For us, school also includes therapy sessions, 1:1 time with a teacher’s assistant and the special education teacher, and an abundance of opportunities for social interactions. Often times, school is the only form of “therapy” that a special needs child may receive due to lack of resources or insurance conflicts. In addition, it is vital to the special needs student and it is also a treasured resource for the parents that are on a never-ending respite waiting list, as it gives the exhausted caretaker time to themselves or other family members.
One would like to think that sending our kids off to school each day would be a fine and dandy walk in the park, but let me certainly not be the first parent to state that it is only October and I cannot wait for the lazy days of summer to return!!!!! The early mornings, the laundry, the “where’s my other shoe” comments, the dragging, the sleeping in, the doctor appointments, the gym days, the library days, school lunch or home lunch, the homework battles, the sleepless nights, the calls from the school, the Special PTA reminders, the fundraising, the bullying, the viruses … my goodness … school is tough for all parties of a special needs family.
So what’s a parent to do to get through it all?
- Take 1 day off each from all thoughts from school and go do something fun.
Whether it’s a walk in the park, a PJ Party in the basement or a trip to a pumpkin farm, make it a fun event. Family fun is just the thing to take the edge off a busy, no good, very bad week!
- It’s never too late to make the classroom volunteer list!
So you “accidentally” tossed the volunteer sign up form this September? No worries, let the teacher know that you can be used as a backup volunteer when others cannot make it. This way you get an inside view of what school is like for your child.
- Join a support group in your child’s school district.
This is a great way to get some socialization opportunities for both yourself and your children. Plus it’s always great to network with other parents that have been in your school district for ages and may be a valuable resource come IEP time.
- Make sure to add your info to the classroom directory and get a copy from your child’s teacher.
Another valuable resource for networking and for obtaining study buddies and after school play dates is to make sure your information is on the classroom directory. I personally use all my school-aged children’s classroom directory list to throw an awesome Halloween party every year and in return we get a few birthday invites as well.
- Plan ahead for IEP season and get an advocate in advance.
IEP’s are rough. Why partake in the IEP Shuffle? Get things in order prior to even an official IEP date. You can always start interviewing the right candidate for the job early.
- When in doubt … JUST ASK!
There are no dumb questions in the world of parenting, which I’m sure you’re well aware of (Example: “Mom…does the tooth fairy have X-Ray vision to see through my pillow? Are you SUUUURRRREEEEE she has our address?????”). As you can see, stressing situations of doubt is never a good thing for anyone. You should be able to call, e-mail or visit your child’s school to get all the answers you need to end the confusion.
- Get a sitter on a school night and go out: ADULTS ONLY!
There is nothing wrong with using a sitter from 5:00pm to 8:00pm on a school night so you can see what it’s like to be a typical socializing adult. Once a month or more, call a sitter, have their dinner ready and go see a movie and get a bite to eat. You’ll be home just in time to read bedtime stories like no other parent could. Trust me, breaks are awesome!
- It can be motivating to keep track of your child’s progress through the school years, but look at your own progress as well.
I’m sure adjusting to the roles of being the parent of a special education student was a life-changing event and with each year brings new challenges. Look at how much you have accomplished alongside your child and celebrate together.
It’s only October and we are just beginning another school year. Let’s keep reinforcing great school years and staying motivated to help our special education student obtain an appropriate and top notch education!
What are some ways you get through the school year? Start a discussion by adding a comment below!
Happy School Year Everyone,
Michelle O’Neill, AHSS Lead Care Team Member and Mother to a Special Needs Child PLUS two!!!!