Aug 21, 2015

Creating Your Best Year Yet: How to Navigate Special Education Sanely

Guest Blogger: Charmaine Fuller - Fuller Potentials

The special education world is it’s own unique space in the educational system that requires for parents to have a certain skill set in order not to go crazy. This posting won’t make you an expert but it will give you some necessary tips and resources so that you can build on your arsenal of knowledge and skill.  

When we first began our journey in the Michigan special education system it was overwhelming to say the least.  I found that many administrators and educators knew as much or less than I did, so I had to learn. This means as a parent you have got to be your child’s number one advocate, and being an advocate means that there is a certain skillset, toolset and mindset that you must develop in order to be effective.

In this posting I will share the four ways that you can increase your mindset, skillset and toolset and create the best school year yet. Remember, this is not an overnight process, take your time and don’t rush it. Rushing will leave you overwhelmed and frustrated.

  1. Get Educated -
    1. Take some time this year to get educated on Individualized Education Plans (IEP’s), Special Education Law (IDEA, No Child Left Behind, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act), how the bureaucracy in your district works. Also, grab a book on personalities, knowing how to work with various personalities effectively is an helpful skill.
    2. Connect with you local Parent Advisory Committee and the Michigan Alliance for Families for workshops and other educational opportunities.
    3. Be sure to get on the mailing list for Wright’s Law, as a matter of fact look into attending a Wright’s Law Emotions to Advocacy conference or boot camp, it will be well worth your time and money. Connect with the website Understood and The Friendship Circle. All have weekly newsletters packed with information to help you advocate for your child and help them to live their best life possible.
    4. Learn as much as you can about your child’s condition, the more you know the more you are able to effectively advocate for what they need.
  2. Self Care - Make sure that your life is not consumed with special education. Creating time away from it all will actually increase your absorption of information and your ability to advocate for you child.  If you’re a stay at home mom like me, set up a ‘mommy fund’ this is where you put aside a little each month to be able to treat yourself. Start off small and do something for yourself each week, it could be as simple as a hot bath or as extravagant as a full spa day. Self-care is not a luxury, it’s a divine responsibility.
  3. Get Support - As I mentioned above, look for your local Parent Advisory Committee (PAC), check on your district's website or simply ask other parents of children with special needs at your child’s school. Many hospitals, therapy sites and external groups, offer support groups for parents. There are support groups on social media that are very specific to whatever condition you’re working with. Beware of groups and sites where a bulk of the time is spent lamenting over the pain and heartache of special needs or what the school isn’t doing. Support groups should be about helping you find solutions, not magnifying the problem. If you find a group or site that is constantly showing the negative or has a bunch of whiners, leave quickly.
  4. Effective & Quality Communication - Notice I used the words effective and quality. You are going to have to get beyond surface talk and being afraid to ask for what you need and what your child needs.  Make sure that you are effectively and clearly communicating with your child’s teacher and other staff about what your child needs. NEVER leave meaning up to school staff. Some things to help ensure that you are effectively communicating:
    1. Repeat when necessary
    2. Put it in writing
    3. Ask questions
Doing those things will help to make sure that all parties understand what was said, and are just not agreeing to terms and conditions to keep the meeting moving.

These four steps are things that you will need to do continuously in order to create harmony not only with school administration but in your life.  Notice, that how you show up in your personal life will be the way that you show up at IEP meetings and other encounters with your child’s school.

Make this school year your best and most stress free one yet.

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I am a Mom Mentor, that means I help moms to discover or re-discover their bad-assery all over again, beyond being a mom. Helping them to define what balance looks and feels like for them and guiding them to create their life with passion all while living their purpose.
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