Teachers and Professionals Caring For Special Needs Children: A Mother’s Perspective
Today, we have our first ever Guest Post here on the CW Blog. Joy Smith is a mother of four, and her son Adrian was diagnosed with autism in April of 2006.
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[/caption] My husband and I have always felt that it takes a really special person to work in the field of caring for people with special needs. Whether that is a teacher, speech pathologist, occupational therapist, doctors, and all the other caretakers that step in and out of our children's lives. As a mother, who loves my son in such an indescribable way... sometimes it's still very difficult for me to remain patient and understanding. It's still difficult to make him move forward with things when we hit a plateau. So if it's hard for me, someone who adores him; I can only imagine how hard it can be for the professionals, at times, to deal with some of the difficult situations that children with special needs present to them. We felt a very special bond with Adrian's first speech pathologist, special needs teacher, and para-professional; they meant a lot to us and we clung to them as our hope throughout those very difficult first weeks and months after his diagnosis. I cried in front of them more then once, I laughed with them, and shared the ways that Adrian was progressing throughout our time together. We had at least one person in our home every single Monday thru Friday for a very long time. It was very hard for us to move on from those first teachers and professionals who worked with him, it was scary. While the early childhood intervention professionals worked with families day in and day out, for us, it was a first, scary, and important experience. We have continued to have wonderful teachers and other professionals in Adrian's life and each of them are so special to us, providing us with ideas to help him and us sharing our ideas as well. We have always hoped Adrian would come along and progress. There were times we wondered if we would ever hear him speak to us in a meaningful way. I'm forever grateful to the teachers and other professionals that have helped bring Adrian to a place that we were not sure he would ever reach. We have a long way to go but with the "it takes a village approach"... a village filled with two loving parents, teachers, aides, therapists, and other professionals, we are confident he will continue to make strides toward our ultimate goal for him: A happy and fulfilling life. We have only had positive experiences with Adrian's teachers, we have loved every single one of them and I can only imagine how difficult it would be to feel like your child is not in the best situation. Here are some ways that have made our experiences with teachers and professionals positive experiences:
- Daily Communication: As a mother who has a child who has great difficulty with communication, I can attest as to how vital it is for the parents to be able to communicate with the teachers. Personally I like to see a note home every day. I have seen several variations from communication notebooks where the teacher and parent can just jot down quick notes back and forth to each other. I have also seen pre-printed forms that have various things where the teacher can circle what the child did for the day, what their mood was like, etc. The note where a teacher can quickly circle things would be faster considering that the professionals are busy with many students and other things but knowing that I cannot ask my son what he did during his day, at least not asking and getting a clear answer, I appreciate the notes very much and I suspect other parents who have non verbal children or those with limited verbal skills would also love to hear what their child did too. It's an incredible gift to get that communication as often as possible.
- Being Available: All of Adrian's teachers have made themselves available to us via telephone at a minimum. An email address is really nice too for busy parents so if you check it regularly and are willing to respond in that way I'm certain parents would appreciate that.
- Love 'Em: I have to say the best thing is to just love the kids. I know Adrian's teachers cared for him because we would swap stories during meetings about Adrian and we would laugh and smile about things he had done or said. They were interested in Adrian as a person, not just as a student. They loved him and there was nothing that made me feel more secure than that. I knew, walking into IEP meetings or conferences that they had his very best interests at heart because I knew they deeply cared for him and wanted to see him succeed.
- Look Outside the Box: Research. Figure out what is working for other professionals that you haven't tried. There are so many techniques and different methods for achieving goals. There are such a wide variety of learning styles which can be harder to figure out with a special needs child. We have had some professionals look outside the box for Adrian and guess what? It has helped him.
- Be Sympathetic: I do realize not all parents want to get involved in a deep way. I realize some parents can be hard to deal with for one reason or another. Some parents may be in denial and make things difficult. Be sympathetic to all of that. This is their baby and they weren't necessarily expecting to have to deal with some of these issues that special needs parents have to deal with. One day I was on a field trip with Adrian's preschool class. On the way to the farm we were visiting we stopped and picked up another preschool class. I overheard the teacher and teacher's aide discussing one of the students. Basically they were bad mouthing his mom because she was in denial and refused some service they thought the child needed. What a shame! What a shame this little boy had to sit there and be talked about as though he wasn't there! What a shame he had to hear his mother being talked about in a negative light! They were not being sympathetic to the fact that this mother was probably having a difficult time accepting her son's reality. It may take some parents a little longer and I'm sure that can be frustrating for professionals who are just trying to help but a little compassion and understanding can go a long way.
- See potential where those have not: Insist that your student can have it all, can do it all and help them achieve it.
I'm not in the education field or the medical field. I don't have the same experience as those who are in the field. I'm just a mom. A mom of a child with autism. -Joy Smith
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