Back to School -Parenting Disabled Children
Exceptional Families with Exceptional Kids
by Christopher Auer
Back to School
As a parent of a disabled child with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) I start to feel very anxious this time of year. The new school year is approaching and I am filled with questions and doubts, such as Will my child fall further behind his peers? , Will his new teacher understand and support his unique needs?
For me, the worst doubts revolve around the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and my child’s anxiety. When it comes to the IEP, I am on heightened state of alert ready to do battle. I know this isn’t healthy to me or my family. I want to be sure that my child is receiving everything he is entitled to. I cannot wait for future services. I cannot wait for him to fail.
To begin the school year off on a more positive track, I suggest some plain old relationship building. The secretary is usually the most influential person on staff. Many principals have been run out of town by a secretary led revolt. Prior to the first day of school, stop by and introduce yourself and your child if you aren’t already acquainted. Present the secretary with a small gift such as a decent pen, flowers, cookies, or maybe a picture from your child.
Your next stop is the principal. Again, present some small gift with your child. You might have a quick chat to clarify the supports your child needs in the classroom. Your goal is to assure that the principal knows your child (in a positive light) and also knows that you are an involved parent.
Visit your child’s teachers in they are in the building. Present small gifts, and then make sure that they are aware of the content of your child’s IEP and have your contact information. If they have a tendency to contact you too much, which often happens, make the circumstances clear that you wish to be called.
To prepare your child, and decrease his or her level of anxiety, I suggest that you have a focused conversation. This strategy comes from the Institute of Cultural Affairs. The strategy involves asking your child four sets of questions flowing from the past to the future.
The first set of questions is designed to begin the process of thinking about the topic. These questions should be easy to answer, concrete and objective. A sample question might be What were some of the things your class did last year? or even simpler Who was in your class?
The next set of questions is focused around reflections and feelings. Sample questions might include, What was really easy for you last year? or What was really difficult? To probe deeper, you might ask, What did your teacher or classmates do that made you feel appreciated? or What are you most doubtful about in the coming year?
The third set is actually the type of question we usually first jump to. These are interpretive questions. It’s tempting to jump right to these questions because they begin to address the problem. Without first focusing on the feelings, however, the action to the problem or issue may be inappropriate. Interpretive questions in this scenario include, What kinds of changes would be helpful to you in the classroom? or What is the main challenge for you in (classroom, cafeteria, recess, etc)?
The last set of questions is designed to reach a decision point. You might ask, What do we need to tell your teacher? or What are the steps we need to take?
Central to this process is that you are a facilitator. The responsibility for developing an action and carrying out the action rests with your child. This is a wonderful tool for your child to learn to tackle many difficult issues. It can even be used in the context of your whole family.
As the new school year begins, my wish for your children is that they
grow up with the courage and wisdom to share their natural talents for the betterment of the world, express understanding and respect for humanity and appreciate and extend the work done by previous generations of people.
Parenting a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder: A Family Guide to Understanding and Supporting Your Sensory-Sensitive ChildIn raising children with or without special needs, nothing is more important than the family unit. This book will enable you to enhance your child’s sensory development. Additionally, it will help you ensure that your child and all family members not only survive, but, indeed, THRIVE! When your whole family thrives, you can best ensure your child’s optimum development over the short and long range of life.
–Ann Turnbull, Ed.D., Co-Founder and Co-Director, The Beach Center on Disabilities University of Kansas
Auer and Blumberg have lent their insight, passion, and compassion to this workbook. In so doing they have also provided a guidebookand a preamble of advocacy for children and their families.
Morton Ann Gernsbacher, Ph.D., Vilas Research Professor and Sir Frederic C. Bartlett Professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
It has been said that a family of five is akin to five people lying side-by-side on a waterbed: whenever one person moves, everyone feels the ripple. A child with sensory processing disorder can have a devastating impact upon the day-to-day functioning of a family. There are several books available that provide data and information on the nature of this puzzling disorder, but Auer and Blumberg have written a valuable book that finally provides parents with specific strategies and practical solutions to the daily challenges faced by these special children and their families. While other books define the problem, Auer and Blumberg offer techniques to minimize the effect of the disorder on the child’s daily life. I strongly recommend this book to any adult who is parenting a child with a sensory processing problemand to the professionals who are assisting moms and dads on this challenging journey.
Richard D. Lavoie, M.A., M.Ed., author of It’s So Much Work to Be Your Friend and executive producer of How Difficult Can This Be? The F.A.T. City Workshop
Finally a book that treats SPD in the full context that it deserves: not as a co-condition or as another obstacle but as a full fledged challenge to the complete inclusion of individuals with unique learning styles. The collaborative integration of the senses accounts for your picking up this book, examining it and deciding on whether to make it part of your library. Auer and Blumberg walk you through how that process is both derailed and rekindled.
Rick Rader, MD, editor-in-chief of Exceptional Parent magazine and director of the Morton J. Kent Habilitation Center
Read this with a highlighter in hand, because you will want to refer many times to the wise and wonderful ideas in this splendid how-to book. The authors are not only sensitive and resourceful parents of kids with SPD, but also articulate, honest, and sensible writers.
Carol S. Kranowitz, MA, author of The Out-of-Sync Child
Latest posts by Christopher Auer (see all)
- Helping theDisabled Child through Spring’s Rebirth - May 8, 2019
- Communicating with Relatives about Your Disabled Child - September 17, 2018
- Five Tips for Keeping Families with Disabled Children Strong and Healthy - August 17, 2018