Having a child with special needs can be extremely stressful for most parents. Once you enter the world of education, it can be even harder for many to understand the system. Special education departments need to work with other therapists and providers in schools to build a community. This would include all of them and the families to strive for open and clear communication. When this happens, everyone who is part of the team will work better together to help the individual student.
Reaching Out to Families
Feeling lonely and unsure of how to help their child is something that can happen to a lot of special needs families. Anxiety about having a child who is different can be real, along with stress over meetings at school. To help alleviate stress, some schools have worked with families to create a Special Education Parent Teacher Association (SEPTA). SEPTA groups are an excellent way to keep the lines of communication open. They allow special education teachers, parents, and others involved with the student to work together productively.
Within SEPTA groups, they will often set up seminars and information nights. These may be to have a Behavior Specialist, school psychologist, or head of the Committee for Special Education come in to talk to members. They can go over IEP testing, the transition for students from elementary school to middle school, and more. In addition, they may work from the broader community to have a swim school present about classes available to teach kids in smaller groups.
These meetings are also an opportunity to allow families to know their rights for advocacy. They meet others who may have similar concerns and be able to work with them on solutions. Families may then ask these individuals to come to their meeting to be another set of ears to assist during those stressful IEP reviews.
Engaging Students Within the School
While helping families is essential, it’s also crucial to engage special needs students in their own academic experience. Special education teachers and therapists need to encourage students to become self-advocates as they get older. Over time, they need to learn about their own IEP goals and be involved in what they think may work best.
Everyone needs to make sure that students with special needs are able to join clubs and sports teams with their peers. Everyone needs to work on ways to allow this to happen and encourage classmates to embrace differences.
Does your school have a SEPTA? Please share your experience setting one up or why you may not have done this yet in our comments section below. Any information which will help others is much appreciated.