Navigating the world of special education can be tricky. Even trickier, though, is when you need to find an expert in special education that you can trust to do what’s best for your child and for you.
Would you ask your surgeon to help with your plumbing issue? This may seem like a silly question. Of course, you wouldn’t ask your surgeon for help with your plumbing, and you wouldn’t ask your dentist for advice on starting an exercise program. No doubt both the heart surgeon and the dentist are very educated and have extensive background and knowledge in their fields, but they can only help you if you have a bad heart or bad teeth!
In most areas of life, this is obvious, and we know to turn to experts for help and support.
4 Steps to Successfully Find An Expert in Special Education
For some reason, these common sense rules disappear when it comes to special education. I recently worked with parents who were struggling to navigate the process of getting their child assessed for the first time. They had people around them giving loads of different advice, and they found the whole situation to be overwhelming.
After digging a little deeper, I realized those parents had a lot of people offering advice that really had no knowledge or expertise when it came to special education. Their child’s speech therapist gave them advice about the development of an IEP, including information about special education eligibility. Their attorney gave them advice about that same IEP, even though he had no expertise in programming for children. The list went on and on and, ultimately, the result was a very frustrated family AND a young boy whose needs were not being met.
So what is the answer? How can families navigate the world of special education? How do families know where turn for important advice and information?
Step 1: Determine The Help You Need
First and MOST important; take a few minutes and really think about what you want and in what areas you actually need help. I find the most helpful way to do this is to simply sit down when you have a few minutes of quiet (ha ha–right), and make a list of all the areas with which you are struggling and where you think you may need support.
For example, you may have a list that includes; understanding what the assessment means, having someone observe my child in school, getting support at home for bedtime, having someone help me decide what school to go to, and someone to help me understand special education, and someone to just support me through the journey.
Include everything that is on your mind, even if it seems silly. What you and your child need is NEVER silly, and you absolutely do not have to do this alone. Click on this link to get a worksheet to help you with this process.
Step 2: Find An Expert
Once you have that list, take the time to determine who can help you with what you need. This is where families often get overwhelmed, and look anywhere and everywhere for support and advice.
If you are looking for someone to help you understand the assessment report, you will need to find someone who understands assessment and can explain it to you without bias. That might be a psychologist or a special education consultant.
On the other hand, if you need help around bedtime, you might choose to turn to a therapist or an in-home behavior provider.
When you need to find an in special education, it can seem like a daunting task, but it is so important to find the right person to help you. Too often I see families feeling overwhelmed and confused because they aren’t getting proper support. When this happens, kids don’t get what they need and the level of frustration continues to rise for parents!
Step 3: Keep Friends as Friends
Another common problem I encounter is that parents don’t allow their friends to simply stay friends. Unless your friends have a background and training in special education, they are not your consultants.
Of course, you may run into a friend that’s dealt with a similar situation. This is where it becomes tempting to listen to what’s been done for another child and implement it for your own. Keep in mind that every child and family’s needs are different and that each child needs an individualized plan to meet their needs, so while one remedy might have worked for your friend, it’s unlikely the same thing will work for your child as well.
Focus on what YOUR needs are, and make sure you find the right expert for that need, and keep your friends as friends.
Step 4: Make Sure It Feels Right To You
Once you have support in place, it’s critical to make sure that support feels right to YOU. Each person is different, which means that each person feels supported in a way that is unique to them. If someone tells you there is only one way to do things, that you HAVE to do something to get what your child needs, or makes you feel uncomfortable or unsettled in any way, then that person might not be a good fit for you.
Help should feel useful and supportive. It should leave you feeling better after it is given. If it doesn’t feel right, trust that feeling. There is someone for everyone and getting the right help will make all the difference in the future of special education for your child (and your family as a whole).
It’s Possible to Find an Expert in Special Education
Navigating the world of special education can be confusing, scary, isolating and very overwhelming! You don’t have to do it alone. If you are looking for assistance, please contact me for more information.