When your child has special needs, schooling can be a serious challenge. First and foremost, if you do not have a diagnosis, it is pretty much impossible to get special services within the school system. It was a frustrating situation with my daughter last year, in fact. It wasn’t until last year, when we moved from OK to NY, that her behavioral issues took a dramatic turn for the worse. Things became nightmarish at school. After a few meetings with her teacher and the school counselor, they highly recommended we have her evaluated by a professional. The problem was that, in NY, it is next to impossible to get an appointment with a child psychiatrist because there is a real shortage. While we were working on that, the school did their own testing with her and we set up a CSE (Committee on Special Education) meeting to discuss the findings and what we could do about them. My daughter showed no signs of academic difficulty and actually scored very high on aptitude testing. Because of that and the fact that we didn’t have a formal diagnosis, Special Ed was unable to provide services, even though it was obvious that my daughter needed them desperately. It’s frustrating but that is the way it works.
Once we were given the formal diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome, we were able to get a variety of Special Ed services. This, unfortunately, didn’t happen until the next school year, but at least it finally happened. Because of the horrible and traumatic experiences my daughter had at her school (very long and sordid story), we all agreed that it would be in her best interest to transfer to the other elementary school in the district. It was best, anyway, because it is at that school that the special ed department is based. Thanks to a well thought out IEP (Individualized Education Program), she has excelled this year. If your child is special needs, chances are, an IEP is something you’re very familiar with. For those that are new to special needs, though, an IEP is a blessing. In this Individualized Education Program are all the rules to make school as comfortable as possible for your child. For example, in my daughter’s IEP, she is to have advanced notice of any changes to the normal daily routine. She is to be allowed an extra 15 minutes to complete tests and takes those tests in a quieter setting. There are several other things, but as you can see, allowances can be made for children that require them.
If you are in the process of getting your child diagnosed, the best thing you can do in the mean time is keep track of what helps your child function. Make notes of what works and what doesn’t. When it comes time to sit down with the CSE, these notes will be very beneficial. In addition, keep a good three-ringed binder. It is a great place to not only keep notes but to keep all correspondence from the school and any behavioral professionals your child sees. That way, everything is on hand and you can easily take it with you to meetings. You never know what you might need to refer back to.
If you don’t have Special Ed services yet, be sure to stay in close contact with your child’s teacher. Again, keep any and all correspondence from the school including emails. These will be very helpful when you get an appointment with a psychiatrist or behavioral specialist. Again, this is where that binder comes in very handy.
While getting services set up for your child can be very frustrating and can even be a drawn out battle, it doesn’t have to be. While there are certainly some schools out there that might be better suited to handle special needs children than others, all want children to succeed. It is just a matter of what your school district is equipped to offer a special needs child. The best thing you can do is ask lots of questions and do your own research.