SCHOOL SMARTS - Special Needs Parenting

SCHOOL SMARTS – Special Needs Parenting

We often think school is all about our kids; and a lot of it is, but a lot also rests on us as parents. As parents of child with special needs, our attitude, and the way we approach teachers and situations is very important. While we are many years post school, there were a few things that we found helpful and we hope you will to:

  • Don’t deny that your child has special needs.
  • Make your child your priority. Advocate for him or her.
  • Your school system should give you the information on laws every time you have an IEP conference for your child. Be sure to read and understand the information before confronting people about things you want for your child.
  • When expressing what you want, be firm helpful, kind, and polite.
  • Be realistic about the needs and abilities of your child.
  • Don’t always expect to get your own way. Be flexible. Be teachable.
  • When a problem arises, talk to the teacher first. If you get no results, consult the head of the building or district special education department or principal; and if you still get no results, speak to the superintendent. Don’t start at the top. You’ll burn bridges that way, and they won’t like seeing you coming if every situation is taken to the top first.
  • Ask how you can help and be part of the process and solution. Demanding rather than helping are two different approaches. One works.
  • Offer to help in the classrooms. (We volunteered to help in art and with basic computer skills class, sat in on speech therapies, and so forth. It was a great learning tool for us as well as seeing what our child was learning and who was in his life.)
  • When you don’t know what to do, ask for help. Talk to counselors, other teachers, and parents who can help you sort things out and set you in the right direction.
  • Get involved in your child’s IEP, special education meetings, committees, and seminars. Far too many parents don’t do a thing, and then complain.
  • Encourage, thank, and appreciate all the people who work with your child (teachers, aides, bus drivers, therapists, and administrators who educate and care for you child). Send notes to express those feelings. An occasional small, inexpensive gift (ex: stickers to use in class) that convey your feelings is a great way to establish yourself as one who is caring and kind. When you need to meet and discuss something that is “difficult” they will know you are approachable, logical, and will listen to all the facts because they have seen you do so in the past.

Can we do all these things all at once? Probably not, but we can practice them all along the way a little at a time.

Can we all go to school and be a weekly part of helping in the classroom? Perhaps not because of our own work schedules, but we can make time here and there to take part. It’s all a matter of making it a priority.

Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Where can I start to make a difference?
  • Who can I contact to help me along the way?
  • What are a few goals to get me started?

Ready? Set. SCHOOL!

(Have a great year!)


Dr. Joe and Cindi Ferrini share their newest book: Love All-Ways: Embracing Marriage Together on the Special Needs Journey (order at They are authors, speakers, and bloggers for several blogging sites on marriage, family and special needs. They spoke nationally for FamilyLife Weekend To Remember Marriage Get-a-Ways for 20 years, authored *Unexpected Journey – When Special Needs Change our Course, and have been interviewed on Focus on the Family, FamilyLife Today, Janet Parshall at “In the Market”, Chris Brooks of “Equipped” and various other radio and television venues. Connect with them at:

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Joe and Cindi have been married since 1979, have 3 grown children, grandchildren, and enjoy speaking together on topics of marriage, parenting (including special needs), leadership, and time and life management. They have written articles and blogs for Focus on the Family, FamilyLife, Family Matters, and others. Together they authored: Unexpected Journey – When Special Needs Change our Course. Cindi has written time management and organizational materials as well. They LOVE what they GET to do….

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