By Murphy Moroney
August 28, 2018
Having a child with special needs often leaves parents with oodles of questions when it comes to their education. Does my kid need an IEP? Should I schedule regular meetings with his or her teacher? Am I doing enough to help my child in the classroom? For concerned parents, getting to the bottom of all their pressing questions can quite frankly be exhausting.
We did some of the heavy lifting for moms and dads who are navigating the school system by asking special needs educators the things they want parents to know. And unsurprisingly, their answers are beyond enlightening.
Scroll through to see exactly what experienced educators from around the US have to say about their profession, and grab a notebook to take some notes along the way!
Related: 8 Back-to-School Tips For Parents of Kids With Special Needs
1.) They're constantly monitoring their students' progress.
"There are so many rewarding parts of my job! In the state of South Carolina where I teach, I'm required to take a lot of progress monitoring data. What that means is that I'm constantly collecting intel on my students. That being said, I get to watch them grow.
"Sometimes it can take a lot of work to see results, but the best part is when you see a student who has been struggling notice their own progress. When they start to see their own growth in the classroom, that's the best part for me. I love watching them get excited about learning." — Jackie Viotto, South Carolina
2.) They want to see your kid succeed more than anything.
"Many of these kids have convinced themselves that they are incapable of learning because it takes them so much more time than others. I show them they are perfectly capable if they trust me and try. The fear of failure is often too great for kids to even put much effort into trying." — Keren Albiston, New York
3.) There are many, many reasons a child might need an IEP.
"Students can get IEPs or 504s for a variety of reasons, such as commonly associated learning disabilities, like ADHD and dyslexia. Children can also get them for severe medical ailments you think a teacher should be aware of, like severe allergies.
I think that when people realize that reasons for having a IEP/504 are so diverse, the stigma that having an IEP makes you 'dumb or different' will be far less common." — Katie Simon, New York
4.) Just because children are in a special needs classroom doesn't mean they're not smart.
"Students often think they're in my classroom because they're not smart. That's not the case at all! I always tell them it's because they learn differently and that's the truth. Most of the students I serve either have a learning disability or another health impairment (like ADHD) that impacts how they're performing academically. There's usually a difference between where their IQ is and where they're achieving on paper.
"Many of my students have average to above average intelligence, but are performing below where they should be. My goal is to try to catch them up." — JV
5.) Having a mix of voices on your kid's team is a good thing.
"There are multiple people on an IEP team for a reason. Each person brings a unique perspective to contribute to the success of a child. Those opinions may differ, but that doesn't mean that person isn't also thinking about what's best for the child.
"Don't go into every IEP meeting with guns blazing ready to fight the school. Groups of contentious adults aren't ever going to be able to implement a plan that's best for your child."— KA
6.) Teachers truly want you to advocate for your child.
"I tell all my parents to never be afraid to advocate for your child. Sometimes I feel like parents sit in IEP meetings and look lost. I wish that parents would remember they have a say when it comes to how their child is served in the school setting.
"The psychologist, the speech therapist, or whoever is in the meeting with you aren't trying to talk at you, we're trying to convey what the student needs. Please don't be afraid to ask questions! We'd love to explain more things to you." — JV
7.) Special needs educators are drowning in paperwork.
"There is so much paperwork to complete for special education. We are told to have aids and assistants help the students so we can complete paperwork or I have to get a sub to write all day. It seems like as a teacher, my time should be spent teaching." — KA