Making the Switch From Teacher to Advocate for My Special Needs Child

Please welcome Stacey of Teaching Ever After.  She shares her experience with making the switch from being a teacher to advocating for her own special needs child.  Thank you for sharing your heart with us Stacey and creating such a useful freebie.

Today I am not a teacher
 I am a parent
 I am a parent of a child with Cerebral Palsy.  
I am a parent who is unhappy.  
I am my child's only advocate.

4 1/2 years ago I became a mommy to the most beautiful little boy in the world.  Due to complications during birth he was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy.  He is unable to walk, has difficulties with his right arm, and has speech delays.  Despite all of that, he has been such a blessing in our lives and I would do anything for him.  Last spring he started attending a special education preschool.  I thought I have this.  I am a teacher.  My husband and I attended his case conference and set up his first ever IEP.  Everyone kept telling me you have to fight for what you want.  Even being a teacher I wasn't quite sure what to expect or what I would be fighting for.  How could these people not do exactly what was best for my son? We made some minor changes, but overall we were very happy and have been up until this point.  

After some disputes my husband had with my son's 3 therapists about communication we scheduled a meeting.  This is when I switched my hat from teacher to parent.  I am a parent.  This was quite possibly one of the hardest things I have ever had to wrap my mind around.  I know that seems silly, but I had a mental block only allowing me to think as a teacher.  My husband and I were having fight after fight over what were reasonable expectations.  But I realized today that I can't think as a teacher I have to think as a parent and NOTHING is unreasonable when it comes to my baby.  I am a parent.  

Today I realized what our true role is as teachers.  I have always known this, but a lot of time politics skew things.  I can guarantee that most of us went into education because we liked kids and we wanted to help shape our future (summer vacations helped too).  Please tell me why we, the educators, have to fight against the parents when what the child needs most is for us to work together?  Doing what is best for children should never be a fight.  My son has been fighting since the day he was born and it makes me devastated that he has to fight for what is best for him.  Today this parent is telling this teacher remember what is most important... THE CHILDREN!

I will keep this experience in my mind as I prepare for future meetings for my students.  I now have even more empathy for those parents sitting across the table.  These are our babies.  It is our job to protect them, to be their voice, to be their advocate.

I am a parent!

  One thing I learned at our last meeting was how organized you have to be in order to be most effective at the meetings.  I have created a Parent Survival Kit for Special Education Meetings.  Grab your free copy here.

Included in this kit is a place to keep track of important information, questions, notes from your meeting, and a communication log.  I will not be without my kit at the next meeting

Thank you to Rachel for allowing me to be her guest blogger.  I really appreciate it! I would also like to thank you for taking the time to read my take on a topic that is very near and dear to my heart.

~Stacey (Gavin's mommy)

My name is Stacey and I am a proud mommy of 2 beautiful children, Gavin and Norah, and married to the best man ever!  I currently teach 1st grade and have been a blogger for a year and a half.  Thank you for joining me on my journey.
I would love if you visited my blog 


Kim said...

Wonderful post, Stacey and Rachel. Thanks for the resource--I am passing it along to a parent just getting started on the Special Education whirlwind. Looks like a great tool for keeping things organized!

Finding JOY in 6th Grade

Kim Beasley said...

Thank you Stacey! I have been a teacher for over 10 years and am starting the journey with my own special needs child in kindergarden this year. Thank you so much for your resource and advice for parents.

Mrs. W said...

What an excellent post! The stronger the parent participation the better the results for the children we, as special educators, serve. Can I also suggest, three whole punch any documents you receive during the meetings and keep them in a binder divided by grade level. This gives you quick access should you move and allows you to see how his goals change from year to year. If you should move, please please please remember to contact the district before hand and walk in the door with a copy of the IEP. I've waited up to three months to get copies from some schools.
One side note: please keep in mind that many special educators are giving everything they have, but due to state budgets are limited in the services and support they can offer. I've had to say no to parent requests before not because I didn't want to provide them but because I realistically could not. If its something you absolutely feel you need, don't hesitate to contact your school district. As much as we as teachers share what we need to provide services it often not heard unless a parent fights for it as well. Best of luck on this journey!!!

Kristy Lutton said...

Great post friend! Your kids are beautiful. I totally get what you are saying about needing to advocate for your child. It is important that your little guys voice is heard and his needs are met.

As a special educator myself, my students become my children and I feel the frustration of the system as well. I often feel like my hands are tied and I know my students needs could be better met but there is not enough for me to go around.

Keep fighting friend:)

I am Bullyproof Music - Lessia Bonn said...

This is touching and so inspiring. I just want to hug you!

Stacey said...

Thank you all for your words of encouragement and additional advice! I hope my resource will help many families.
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