If you are a parent of a child with special needs – Autism or otherwise, you know that the tug-of-war between the school and the parent is real and stressful. The IEP meeting every year is something all of us dread. You probably attend seminars , ask for ideas in Autism groups online, read various tips and tricks, try talking to a family advocate and gear yourself for the D-day . I’m guessing, the school ,on its part, does a ton of meetings and collaboration to come up with an IEP that they believe is practical and effective. Same goes for almost everything that involves your child and the school. There seems to be a constant back and forth trying to figure out what is best for the child. While every school year is an opportunity for the students to grow, it is also an opportunity for the teachers to learn more about the kids who need that extra attention because of their challenges.
If I was asked what I would want the school to know about my child and Autism in general, this is what I would say:

    • My son is more than just an IEP. What is simply a set of guidelines for a student in your eyes is what will be the stepping stone to a better future for my son.
    • I wish you knew how awful it feels sitting in a room listening from his teachers and therapists what all my son is incapable of doing. I wish you could feel my pain. It would be so encouraging if you also listed his strengths and achievements as well.
    • It may not appear so but I really do appreciate all that you do for my son everyday.When I see a progress in him , you are the 1st one (after his dad) I think of who I think would be proud to hear about it.
    • When I fight for every single of his therapy minutes, I don’t just do it because I can. I fight for it because I think you can. So I want more of your time with him.
    • You might think my son’s more than normal tardiness and absence has something to do with my inefficiency but accept it or not, sleep disorder is an “occupational hazard” that comes with Autism and although I might not be able to get a medical diagnosis for it, it is an actual problem. So, when my son is late to school or misses it, chances are that he spent a sleepless night and he is catching up on it in the morning before he comes to school. I’m actually doing you a favor by not sending a sleep deprived , cranky child to take care of. Please don’t penalize him for that.
    • When I ask you too many questions about my son’s routine, it’s not because I’m trying to interrogate you. It’s because I’m trying to find out how his day was. My son is non-verbal so it helps to get additional information from someone who has beeund him during his day at school.
    • A chewy tube is not the solution to all his problems.
    • Not all aggression is bad behavior. For a non-verbal child aggression might be a way to express their angst, or tell you that they are sick or that they want to be heard or just an expression of their helplessness to articulate themselves. There can be a million reasons why a child on the Autism spectrum is acting out, behavior being just one of those reasons but not the only one.
    • When you sit around a table, discussing my son and say that he might never be able to even as much as write his name, you might think you are doing me a service by showing me the harsh truth but honestly, you just lost my confidence in you and your commitment to my son’s development. If you don’t believe in my son, who will?
    • Almost all Autistic kids line up toys, stim, have some kind of sensory issues, and have social awkwardness . In Spite of all these similarities, all Autistic kids are different. You may think that what works for one will work for all but it won’t. That’s the challenge of working with an autistic child.
    • I really admire your patience working with a child who will take long, really long to show you results of your hard work, if any. I appreciate the fact that you do not relent. You smile and deal with his meltdowns and work through all of this to ensure that he has a productive day at school.
    • Please don’t have a special needs classroom and the associated resources because it looks good on your school’s resume. Have it because you want to really help these kids out. Have it because you want to invest in them, in their future. Have it because you are just as proud of these kids as you are of the rest of your students. Think about them, think for them- because when we send our kids to you, we trust you with them. We trust you with their emotional, physical and intellectual well being. They will not probably stand up for themselves so please stand up for them – in the classroom, in the corridors, in the bathroom, in the cafeteria. Let the rest of the school know that these kids are in no way a subject of ridicule and that they deserve the same respect as the rest of the kids in the school. Please.
    • Last, but certainly not the least is the pressing need to educate other students the importance of diversity , acceptance and inclusion. I would love to see the school coming up with programs to teach the rest of the students the value of inclusion. Special needs classroom, Adapted Physical Education and Field days exclusively for the differently abled kids are wonderful ideas but they also tend to create a distinction between these kids and the rest , creating a feeling of “they are different” and “not part of us” in the impressionable minds of the students. So it is of utmost important to ensure that students are taught to be enablers and a friend.

Every time a parent of a child with special needs decides to homeschool their child, it is a loss for the schools. It’s also a challenge for the education system to rise up to the challenge. Together, the parents and the school can change the experience and shape the future of every special needs child who is waiting to be that extraordinary person that he was meant to be.

Originally published at www.braindroplets.com