Starting a New School Year for Students with Disabilities

Just in time for school to start, we thought we'd share with educators some advice and requests from parents of children with disabilities.  Numbers 8, 11, 12, 15, 16, 20 to be particularly inspiring!

Article written by Melissa McGlensey from

22 Things Parents Want Special Educators to Know Before School Starts

As back-to-school time draws near, we know parents have a lot on their minds (and to-do lists). Jumping into a new school year with a new special educator can be daunting for moms and dads. So we asked our parent readers what they wanted their children’s special educators to know.
Here’s what they had to say:
1. “Read the IEP and, as my special educator, please tell the inclusions teachers to read it, too. I do appreciate you… But I am still the parent and we need to be a team.” — Doreen Duran

2. “Always communicate with parents. We want to know everything going on — improvements, failures, what they’re doing, are they making friends… We want to know it all.” — Corvette Shannon
3. “Believe what I tell you. I am not trying to do your job, I am trying to help you understand my child. If you start off slowly, you can work your way up. If you give him too much, he will break down and you will lose him for the year.” — Tracy Boyarsky Smith

4. “Our child is complete just the way he is (he’s nonverbal and has Down syndrome and autism). We don’t want him fixed, we just want him to enjoy school and be his best.” — Jill Mayes
5. “The child is a child. They are not their IEP.” — Allie Fread Bernier
6. “We’re partners — a team working on behalf of my child and your student to give him the brightest future possible. Nothing is too small or too insignificant to share since its impossible to know what may effect his day or evening. No secrets, no agendas, just respect and communication both ways.” — Autism and Pizza

7. “Partner with the general educators.” — Melanie Perkins McLaughlin
8. “Just imagine for a moment if this were your child. Now go and advocate for the special services this child needs. Do the right thing.” — Stacy Sekinger
9. “I’m handing my son over to you, teacher. And when he gets on that bus for the first time, I’ll also be handing you a piece of my heart. Please be gentle with us.” — Andrea ‘Dolney’ Mullenmeister

10. “Despite your years of teaching and educating yourselves (which are important), we as the parents know our children. We know that the most important ingredient is compassion and tolerance. So please call on that as much, if not more than your skills in academics.” — Nancy De Bellefeuille
11. “Don’t underestimate my child.” — Jessica Barnhart
12. “To communicate with parents about what we can do to help you so we are all on the same page. Be truthful. Don’t sugar coat, and don’t make it worse than it is. See my son as a person and realize he is a child first. I don’t have a manual and I don’t expect you to, either.” — Ronda Landes

13. “It is okay to have high, reasonable expectations of your students.” — Kristin Boxall
14. “She is my baby girl, and just because I am nervous and tell you things 1000 times doesn’t mean I don’t trust you. I have never left her with anyone before.” — Jessica E. C. Miller

15. “Please tell me something good my child did each day. I already know all the things she struggles with.” — Laura Sloate
16. “Don’t be afraid to challenge them. They need to know they are capable of doing the same work as their peers (with a few accommodations here and there). I don’t want them to just get through the school day, I want them to learn.” — Kelly Smith Rhue

17. “I want to ask them, whenever they have the opportunity, to listen to and read the writings of adults with disabilities similar to those of the students they teach. There are so many awesome blogs where people are sharing their experiences and insights from a mature perspective. Some of them are people who had no way to communicate when they were school age, so they may have valuable insights for nonverbal students who can’t yet speak for themselves.” — Cathy N Jeff Jlss
18. “You will inevitably feel like a failure. Maybe not every day, maybe not most days, but there will come a time when you believe you have failed my child. You haven’t. You are not a failure and nowhere in your job description does it say you need to be perfect. Do your best for her.” — Maria Colon

19. “Breathe. It’s going to be great.” — Kerith Zaccaria Stull
20. “See my child for who he is, not what his disability is.” — Lisa Atkinson Waller

21. “Never give up on my boy. Please?” — Letto Abraxas
22. “Being an educator — and especially choosing the path of teaching special needs children — isn’t easy, and I know you’re sometimes treated like the enemy by parents and administrators. I understand and truly appreciate that. Please let me know how I can support you, and thank you for choosing to make a difference for the kids who most need you.” — Rebecca Edgerton

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