Educators and government officials have long agreed that children with special needs deserve and have a right to a quality education. What that looks like for your child though, can be the tough part.
School is where any parent’s frustrations can increase exponentially, particularly in regards to special education. Sample situation: Let’s say your child is identified as having autism but is also what is referred to in layman’s terms as very high functioning-commonly understood to mean that the child has average or above average intellectual ability. Many if not most school districts now have special education programs specifically for autistic children. That’s good, but not so fast. Your particular autism program may only serve children who are non-verbal or have other developmental issues. That class may not be appropriate for your child’s needs then.
Let’s say too, though, that your child has just enough difficulties to keep them out of a mainstream classroom. The teacher must be able to divide their time equally, and your child will need a little bit of extra assistance, even though they have the ability to handle the schoolwork.
Some school districts will work with you to figure out some sort of compromise, if they’re able. Other districts, particularly larger ones such as those in the Boston area or Montgomery County in Maryland, partner with private schools to provide for a child’s special education when the child doesn’t quite fit into any program the district currently provides. This is usually used as a last resort by the school districts, however, as private school special ed costs thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, more than public school special ed.
If you have a child that doesn’t fit into either mainstream or special education programs, you’re going to face your own unique challenges trying to get your child the education they deserve. There are a few things to keep in mind though, as illustrated by Montgomery County’s Special Education Examiner, Janet Price:
– Don’t give up, no matter how discouraged you feel;
– Be open to compromise, the school system may not be able to comply 100% with your specific demands for your child. That’s ok-you can still achieve your goals for your child’s education;
– Understand the special education process in your school district. It can be long, but you can ask for informal provisions in the meantime as you and the district figure out how to help your child in the long-term. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions;
– Don’t get too stuck on past negative experiences-take the wisdom with you, but don’t go in to each new situation expecting the worst.
Maneuvering through special education is tricky, and can be very frustrating. You and your child can get what you need out of it, though, and when you see your child succeed, it will make it all worth it.
TheBostonChannel.com “Rising Special Ed Costs Place Heavy Burdens.”
Lisa Jo Rudy, “What is High-Functioning Autism?” About.com
Janet Price, “Four Mistakes Angry Parents Make Advocating for Their Special Needs Child.” Examiner.com