Tips for Working with Children with Special Needs

In reference to “25 Things Parents of Children with Special Needs Want Their Kids’ Teachers to Know,” originally published March 23, 2013 by Adrienne Ehlert Bashista

I recently read an article online about what advice parents of special needs children would provide the people who are training to become special education teachers.  You can read the entire article, including all 25 suggestions, at the following link. Some of the advice was very good “food for thought.”

Given that anyone working at Uspiritus is likely “teaching” even if not called by the title “teacher,” I thought I would share some of the 25 that most stuck out to me. Maybe they will stick with you too! Again, this is advice that was directed to “teachers” from parents but I think if you read each of the suggestions you will see how these suggestions apply to what we are doing every day to become the best youth caring agency in the Commonwealth of Kentucky!

You can easily replace teacher with foster parent, case manager or youth care counselor.  You can easily interchange classroom, cottage and foster home.

Here’s some of the advice:

  • Children with “invisible” special needs, like ADHD, PDD, SPD, PBD, FASD, OCD, Anxiety,  ODD, Autism, Asperger’s, and many others manifest their disabilities behaviorally. It is EASY to blame the parents for these behavioral problems. It is ACCURATE to see these behaviors as a result of their brain dysfunction.
  • Communicate, communicate, and communicate. Communicate! We can’t help if we don’t know what’s going on.
  • Most kids with neuro-developmental disorders keep it together in school then let it all out at home. This is not because school is a more stable and structured environment. This is not because you can manage our children better than we can! This is because at home they feel safe, they can relax, and they take out their frustrations on the people who love them best. Believe us when we tell you that they do this. Realize that we are jealous that they can keep it together when they are with you.
  • Treat us and talk to us with respect. Yes, you are a professional and you may have years of experience. But we LIVE with our children day in and day out.
  • As parents we are our child’s best advocates. We know our children better than anyone. We are not outsiders, but are part of the IEP TEAM, treat us like the other team members. It should never be an “us against them” mentality. We all want what’s in the best interest of the child and that can’t happen if there is a line drawn in the sand.
  • Realize that we know that our children can be exhausting, we live with them.
  • Try to LIKE our children despite their behavior.
  • Please study multiple methods of teaching and never stop looking for answers.
  • Most children do not choose to be “bad” or “irritating”. In fact, they’d rather not be seen that way. Help them be good!
  • Accommodations, kind words or showing a child that you are cheering for them can make a world of difference.
  • Thank you for taking on the challenging kids. We didn’t have a choice in it – you did.
  • I’m sorry. I’m sorry he disrupts the regular classroom, that he makes your job difficult and that he tries your patience.  And he’s sorry, too. More often than not he is not deliberately choosing to act this way.
  • It takes a special teacher to love our special children. Every day will not be roses and daises and sunshine… but there will be those special days that your heart will melt or you will beam with pride when they have made a major accomplishment, helping you remember WHY you chose this profession. These children see you every day and will grow to either love you or fear you… make sure you choose wisely.