By Claudia Hailwood
It can be so difficult to not worry about sending your child off to school every day knowing they can't truly tell you what is going on in their day because they are non-verbal. And in light of the latest news, it is a very real concern for every parent of every child these days. There are some things you can do to protect your non-verbal child however...
1. GET INVOLVED
Involve yourself in your child's school. Become a well-known presence there. Take part in all of your child's school activities during as well as after-school as much as humanly possible. Get to know who the PTA is, who all of the Staff in your child's Classroom are, as well as your child's Head Teacher and School Principal, Special Education Director, and School Superintendent. Attend parent meetings held by your child's school as well as their district. If your child is close to Transitioning, meet his future teachers! Build a rapport with them as much as your personal time permits. The more you are involved the better off your child will be. DON'T BE SHY!
2. KEEP A COMMUNICATION LOG
Keep a record of every conversation you have with every person involved in your child's daily education plan. WRITE A DETAILED LOG of the nature of every conversation had over the phone. Save all emails. You never know when they may come in handy. STORE THEM IN A SAFE PLACE. Lock them up if necessary, to prevent accidental destruction or loss of them.
Become a Parent Volunteer in your child's classroom. Sometimes these spots fill up fast at the start of the school year so be sure and SIGN UP EARLY! Also, in the case of Self-Contained Classrooms, it may become a liability for parents to be volunteers there, so in this case you may want to consider writing up a waiver of your OWN attesting you will NOT hold the school district liable for any injuries you may endure while Volunteering in your child's classroom.
Sometimes children in a Self-Contained class may undergo Psychotic Episodes while having a Personal Crisis. If you promise you won't hold your child's school accountable and you sign off on the form, they may approve you as being a Parent Volunteer. Special Education Teachers and their Staff are very busy and very stressed, so your help may be just the trick for them, if only just by making copies for them! You also may want to contact your District Special Education Director as well as your Superintendent should you hit a brick wall with your child's School Principal.
4. STAY STRONG
Trust your instinct! If you suspect something is wrong, do NOT HESITATE to ask. Nobody knows your child better than you do. If he/she had been doing well and all of a sudden you are noticing a change in their behavior, do not hesitate to ask what has changed in their classroom. New Staff Members/Change in the Schedule/Change of Class Roster, etc. can bring about new Problem Behaviors in your child. But when you notice something in your child that just doesn't set right with you, ask to come in and OBSERVE. You have a right to do that. You just can't show up unannounced, but you can reach out to your child's District's Pupil Services and Special Education Department and schedule an observation. If you come up against another brick wall, seek a free consultation with an ADVOCATE. Most importantly, trust your gut!