Back to School = Back to Advocacy for Parents of Kids with Special Needs

With a new school year only days away, many parents are busy buying school supplies for their kids. While kids may be wishing for summer not to end, parents welcome a return to a routine. 

 Well most parents. For parents and caregivers of kids with special needs, a return to school can be fraught with emotions. It also means a new round of advocating for their child to get the support they need, in an often over taxed school system. 

As a parent of a child with special needs, it’s not as easy as buying a new backpack and making sure they have school supplies for the first day. We also need to make sure medications are filled, check to see what support our child has for the upcoming year, and bring the new teacher up to speed.

A new school year also means a new year of advocating for our child. Unfortunately, without ongoing advocacy, a child with special needs can slip through the cracks as a school juggles to support the various needs of its students.

 Some tips to help parents prepare for the school year include:

  • Have clarity on your child’s diagnosis

  • Explain how that diagnosis presents in your child (example two kids with autism will have completely different needs).

  • Highlight your child’s strengths and how to bring them out

  • Be clear on triggers your child has or areas where they need extra support

  • Help the new teacher see your child as a person, not a label

  • Know the support your child will receive, and enlist your child’s support team (doctors, therapists, etc.) if you need to advocate for additional support

  • Remember there is a line between bullying and advocacy. Make sure you foster a positive relationship that will help you during the school year.

If you would like more tips and advice including preparing and attending Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings, advocating for an Educational Assistant (EA) or helping your school understand your child’s diagnosis and needs, check out my book Your Child’s Voice – A Caregiver's Guide to Advocating for Kids with Special Needs, Disabilities, or Others Who May Fall through the Cracks.