You’ve heard it often enough, you are your child’s best advocate.
And now, as you enter yet another phase of change as a parent, you will be called upon again in a whole new way to advocate for your child. Every school year brings new challenges, especially for those who are parenting a child with special needs. New classrooms, new teachers, new friends… But this year, all of those things are taking a backseat to something you had never heard of before. COVID-19 has changed everything many of us had worked so hard to establish in the lives of our cherished children. And to add to this puzzle, you are left without a road map or inclination of how the future changes will be set forth, and what that might mean for your family.
Yes, not just your child, but your family will likely be impacted.
Your ability to parent and provide is often directly tied to your child’s educational schedule and needs. During these past months, you dug deep and made it work. You took time each day to do e-learning while scheduling meetings or working with a partner to take care of your family. “It can’t last forever,” you thought, many times. But the months wore on, and on. August and the traditional start of school is looming out there, and it looks like some unknown territory, waiting to be unveiled.
You are waiting for answers, and you have every right to have them.
You probably fall into one of two categories of parents who have learned to navigate the game of school life for your special needs child: 1) You always anticipate problems, because your path has been filled with them, so you go forth with fists up, ready for the fight, or 2) You’ve had a pretty good experience and you prefer to just wait and see what is offered and then respond in kind. Depending on the situation you are facing as your child’s advocate, either of these work interchangeably. However, with this year, and the school already most likely feeling defensive, worried, and just as confused in many ways as you are, you might want to learn to strike a new balance. Somewhere in between combat-ready and peace at any cost.
It’s not just time to connect with your educators, but to connect to your child.
As you have been riding through this stormy time together, you may have been willing to allow for your protocols and programs to get a little more relaxed. You were doing the best you could with the resources you had, and likely, so was your educational team. There is a concern possibly, that your child has lost some ground, and you don’t want that trend to continue. So now is the time for some honest and healthy assessment of where your child is, and what needs to be focused upon during the next school year. As their number one advocate, and current home teacher, you more than anyone knows what your child needs.
These needs are not just about education, but also about their emotional and physical needs. Even with the strictest distancing at school, will you be concerned? Have you found the ability to control more of their interactions with friends and outsiders more beneficial to your child? Do they need to focus on some skills in an intensive way during one to one therapy versus in a classroom setting? These and other questions you might have may involve some uncomfortable discussions with your child’s school. It may feel like conflict at first, but the end goal is connection and deeper understanding.
Time spent waiting doesn’t have to be time wasted.
Your mission as a parent hasn’t changed, but without knowing what you will be facing as options, it’s time to address what is factual. This means building a case for what your child will need to be successful in the coming school year. Perhaps now is the time to reach out to your BCBA to ask about getting a re-evaluation or assessment. BPI is partnering with Foundations Counseling and Assessment for testing services, and this might be the perfect opportunity to strengthen your case for support from the school. In March, you were caught off guard, and so was your child’s school. You don’t have to be this time. Use these weeks to be prepared, and strengthen the objectives behind your mission. BPI’s therapy teams can help you be ready to stand firm in your personal advocacy of the best outcomes for your child. Your rights, and your child’s rights, have not changed. You might have to remind your educational provider of this, so be sure you have the foundational information you need to do this.
Remember: While the way you advocate might need to change, you are still the very best at doing it, and you should never doubt yourself.
Joy is originally from the Central Valley of California, where she was raised on a farm and discovered her love for growing things. As the mother of a blended family of 7 adults and the grandmother of 9, she's learned many lessons about supporting the growth of people.