School Support Staff: Build a Special Team for Your Special Needs Child
- Parenting a Child with Special Needs
- Identifying Students with Special Needs During the School Years
- What's the Best Setting for Special Needs Students?
- What Makes a Good Special Ed Classroom?
- Can Special Ed Help Your Child?
- Decoding Special Ed
When your child receives a diagnosis that requires additional support in school, there's an added burden on you. You become his #1 advocate, and you must put together a group of talented, compassionate people to help take care of him. The more you know about the people and services that are available, the better an advocate you will be.
Special Education Teachers
Special education teachers receive intense, specific training in how to deal with all sorts of disabilities. Whether your child is in a special education class or goes to a resource room, the teacher will be your closest ally. She should be the first person you go to for questions. Discuss any changes you both notice in your child or challenges that develop. Work with her to look at the root of your child’s problems. “While you might see your child struggling to write their name, you want to look at why they are not able to write their name,” says Alisa Dror, the head of the Pinnacle School in Connecticut, which serves students with special needs like those on the autism spectrum or who have ADHD.
Your school's psychologist may become a part of your family's life shortly after your child receives the diagnosis. He will most likely give your child tests to see his strengths and weaknesses and perform an evaluation to help determine what services your child needs. He may also meet with your child on a regular basis to help with any emotional or psychological issues that emerge. Typically, psychologists evaluate students every three years to make sure the services offered are still relevant. Make sure you meet your child’s psychologist. Discuss the kinds of things he will share with you about your child and what he’s likely to keep between the two of them. You want to make it clear that he’s joining a team, and you are the captain.
If your child struggles with speaking or understanding language, a speech therapist may be able to help. Not all speech therapists are the same—many have specialties. Stuttering, eating and swallowing difficulties, selective mutism, or simply having trouble pronouncing R sounds are all examples of different speech issues. When you meet with your child's teacher or the principal to discuss services, you should specify the kind of speech therapist your child needs. Be diligent in finding the right person for your child. If the school’s speech therapist isn’t helping with your child’s specific issue, consider finding outside help.
A behaviorist focuses exclusively on behavioral therapy and teaches students how to behave appropriately in school and other situations. "The therapy involves repetition focusing on one behavior pattern until it becomes automatic," says Mary Anne Ehlert, founder of Protected Tomorrows, a special needs advocate firm. Want to get the most out of the behaviorist? Regularly ask what behaviors your child is working on in therapy and start spending some time reinforcing those good behaviors at home. The quicker your child makes each step in behavioral therapy, the quicker the behaviorist can move onto the next one.