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Special needs parenting tips

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10 Reasons Special Needs Parents Should Join a Support Group

Posted by Leah Seyoum-Tesfa on October 18, 2013 at 7:55 PM Comments comments (4)

10 Reasons Special Needs Parents Should Join a Support Group

2013/09/03 By Esther Leung

Support GroupAs a parent to a child with special needs one of the best things you can do for yourself and your child is to join a support group. Support groups can be rich in information that can be helpful for you while raising a child with special needs. You can learn from the experiences of parents who have been there before. There are opportunities for emotional and social support for you and your child.

Here are some reasons to consider for joining a support group:

1. Schools, Teachers and IEPs

A support group will likely be people who likely live in the same community and neighbourhood. This is helpful because, there are other families who have shared experiences about making decisions for their child’s education. This includes making decisions about special education classes, requesting additional school supports and educational assistants.

2. What Do You Know About….?

Everyone is always looking for a good doctor, dentist, therapy programs, recreational programs, and summer camps. Where can you get a good haircut for your child? What about asking each other about what they have heard and experienced about medications and special diets?

3. How Did They Get That?

Speak with other parents about the strategies and the wording that they used to access certain services, funding, and programs. While it would be nice if services were available to everyone equally, this is not so in reality. Are there key words or ways of requesting services?

4. Strength in Numbers

Parents often share that it can be difficult and intimidating to influence changes in programs and services. However if families come together and are all voicing concerns and feedback together, this can help to get the attention of decision makers. Many of the changes of programs and legislation have come from parent advocates.

5. Sounding Board

Outside of your family unit, other parents in a support group can be a sounding board for you to talk through key decisions or ideas that you want to try with your child. Other parents may be able to help you give input about what to do. They can problem solve with you.

6. Understanding Without a Monologue

Some parents will share that connecting with other parents of children with special needs is a huge area of support. Whether your families and friends are supportive or not, sometimes it is nice to connect with people who live in similar circumstances, because they know because they have lived it and you don’t need to explain it.

7. Let’s Go Play

In support groups, there is a possibility that you will meet other families who have children with similar interests. It can be a lot easier to set up family outings and play dates with another child with similar needs and adults who are comfortable with being around you and your child. There is less reason to feel self-conscious or worried about how your child will do in a social situation.

8. Go Online

Now more than ever, families are finding support groups online through Facebook, Twitter, chat groups, and blogs (just like this one). This is one of the fastest ways information gets shared and effective if time, travel and child care can be a challenge.

9. OMG, You Like to Watch The Bachelor Too?

Outside of supporting each other and advocating for your children, you may discover that you have more in common especially on a social level. Sometimes it’s just nice to make new friends.

10. Pass It On Whether you realize it your not, the experiences that you have had will be helpful to someone else. Sharing your story gives hope, insight, tips and encouragement to others.

by Esther Leung is a special needs consultant who works with children and families in the Greater Toronto Area in Ontario, Canada. She has over 10 years of experience in a variety of settings including homes, childcares, schools and recreational settings.


8 things a Teacher Should Know about your Child with Special Needs

Posted by Leah Seyoum-Tesfa on October 2, 2013 at 3:25 PM Comments comments (0)

8 things a Teacher Should Know about your Child with Special Needs


For many of us the summer brings the opportunity to sleep in late, go to bed later, and generally have less structure around the home in regards to routines and meal times. With the start of school, there is an abrupt shift to following more rigid routines. It is often a difficult transition for parents, as well as children.

Teachers are going through these same transitions: getting to know the personalities and learning styles of sometimes more than 20 children can be quite a challenge.

If your child has special needs, it is especially important to share information with each member of the “team” – classroom teacher, school administration, speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, etc.

Here are eight suggestions to help your child transition more easily into a successful and rewarding school year.

1. Consistent Schedule

Try to be consistent with your bedtime and waking times, even on the weekends, until your child adjusts to their fall schedule.

2. Ask the teacher about classroom routines and expectations

Practice these routines at home, such as going to the door and waiting, pushing in chairs, hanging up backpacks, sitting at the table for progressively longer periods of time, and so forth. These routines can be rehearsed throughout the year until no longer necessary.

3. Share school routines with your child’s therapists

Share classroom routines and academic expectations with your speech-language pathologist and/or occupational therapist. Perhaps these goals can be implemented into treatment sessions.

4. Give the teacher some tips on your child’s speech and language capabilities

In the event that your teacher may have difficulty understanding your child’s speech and language, ask your speech-language pathologist to provide a list of frequently-used gestures, signs, word approximations and consonant replacements.

5. Let the teacher know what your child’s strengths and weaknesses are

Sometimes, a lesson can be designed incorporating your child’s interests or strengths in order to help them to be successful.

6. Provide tips on improving your child’s attention and cooperation

Ask your speech-language pathologist and/or occupational therapist for suggestions they have found useful to improve attention and cooperation. Some kids benefit from frequent verbal reinforcement, others may need tangible reinforcers, such as stickers and stamps to remain on-task. Many children with special needs do well with visual reinforcements, such as token systems or visual times in order to sustain attention and cooperation for tasks.

7. Provide information about negative behavior

Make a list of things that may trigger negative behaviors from your child and share them with his or her classroom teacher and school administration. Likewise, share any calming strategies that work with your child. Perhaps, you can work with your occupational therapist to make a “tool chest” of calming or arousing toys that can be used in the classroom, as needed.

8. Be clear and honest about your child’s behavior

Preparing your child’s teacher for potential challenges is very important for a positive child-teacher relationship. Allow your teacher some time to implement any strategies and allow your child the time to adjust to new expectations.

About the author

Jennifer Hill, MA, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist at the Kaufman Children’s Center for Speech, Language, Sensory-Motor & Social Connections, Inc.. She is trained in Links to Language, PECS, and The Kaufman Speech to Language Protocol.