Guest Author - Vicki McCarthy
All parents want to and have a need to feel supported. For parents of children with special educational needs this is especially important.
As we come closer to the beginning of the new school year it’s not just about buying new school outfits or new books. At the start of the school year parents of children within special education have lots of other things to consider like Individualised Education Plans (IEP’s), school reviews/meetings, transport arrangements – the list can sometimes feel endless.
So this is usually the time of year where a lot of parents have that feeling of dread. That “Oh no! Here we go again,” feeling, because whilst summer holidays/vacations can be difficult to get through, trying to navigate the special education maze can feel so much worse.
Parents can feel isolated, alone and also that no-one else understands the challenges they are going through in order to secure the best education possible for their child. And although parenting a child who has special needs can be extremely rewarding especially when all the right support is in place for both the parent and the child, without the right support mechanisms in place for parents it can feel like the most difficult and loneliest job in the world.
But the truth is that there are other people out there who understand how difficult it is trying to “pull everything together”, attend the meetings, inform staff, and continually ensure your child is supported and receiving an appropriate education. And whilst everyone’s journey through the special education system is different very often the emotions parents feel are the same. It’s only when we start to talk with and open up to other parents and share our experiences that we start to realize there are other people who feel the same way.
There is very little, if any, support out there specifically for the parents of children with special needs. So even though your child may be being supported in some ways the chances are you’re not and you just might be struggling. So this is the time of year for us all to support one another. And it can be done. There are more and more forums popping up on the internet that are specific to your child’s needs. There are support groups and there’s always a mom or dad at the school gate who would probably love to talk with you.
It took a year for my friend and I to have that first conversation at the school gate. Since that time we have supported one another through the good and the hard times, we’ve cried, we’ve laughed (what else can you do sometimes) and we’ve been one another’s advocate at meetings. From that first conversation we now have a small group of 5 parents who meet regularly and offer support to one another. Just knowing they are there makes all the difference.