Different Dream once again welcomes guest blogger Sheri Dacon. In this post Sheri offers 4 tips to her fellow teachers raising children with special needs. Her words offer valuable insights to every parent of kids with special needs. So even if you’re not a teacher, you’ll love what Sheri has to say.
4 Tips for Teachers Raising Children with Special Needs
Back-to-school transitions are hard for everybody. Throw in the unique challenges of having a special needs child, and things can start to get crazy.
But what if on top of that, Mom is a teacher who’s also going back to school?
It’s what’s happening here in our household.
When a Teacher Goes Back to School
Over the years, I’ve taught part-time and kept a busy musician’s performing schedule. But this year is different. This year, I got a job offer for a full-time teaching position that I simply couldn’t turn down.
And so for the first time in sixteen years, I’m back in the classroom full-time.
But I’m bringing new knowledge and plenty of different skills to my teaching this time around.
Because after raising a child with autism, I know things now that I simply didn’t know before.
So if you’re a teacher, how do YOU transition back into the school routine and make it as easy as possible for you and your special needs family?
Following are some helpful ideas.
Back-to-School Tips for the Teacher Whose Child Has Special Needs
1. Remember that routine is king.
I swear by daily routines. The more we can teach our kids (and ourselves) to perform daily tasks out of habit, the more smoothly our days will go.
At our house, we have morning, afternoon, and bedtime routines that we try to enforce year round. Unfortunately, as our kids get older, the routines tend to fly out the window during summer. But once school starts, regular routines are in full swing again.
Routines are helpful for all kids, but they are crucial for kids with special needs.
Set up routines for mornings, for homework and after-school time, for evenings. Make life more predictable and therefore less stressful for all involved.
2. Keep meals simple.
I’ve always said the first two weeks back are the hardest. Everyone’s tired, we’re all trying adjust to the new schedule, and gourmet meals just aren’t going to happen.
Keep easy foods on hand for quick, do-it-yourself meals. Now’s not the time to try out those amazing new recipes. Paper plates and sandwiches are okay when life is stressful. Let go of the guilt and know that this season will indeed pass.
3. Take your heart with you into the classroom.
When I was teaching sixteen years ago, I didn’t have children of my own. And so I hadn’t lived with autism up close and personal. I was still in that phase of life in which I thought undesirable behaviors were the result of bad parenting or oppositional defiance on the part of the child.
Now I know better.
As a mom—and especially as a mom to a special needs child—I look at my students through a different lens than I did before. I see them as unique individuals with talents and quirks all their own.
And so I try to model grace in my classroom — not making snap judgments or assumptions about kids whose behavior doesn’t make sense to me. I try to see my students as people first, and then students. It’s a complete shift in perspective from how I used to teach, but a much needed one.
Were it not for my child with autism, I don’t know that I would’ve been able to make that shift. But I believe my students will benefit from it.
4. Give yourself and your family grace.
These are difficult, stressful times. Moving from the slow, lazy pace of summer into the hectic back-to-school routine takes its toll on everyone and can stretch your family beyond its comfort zone. Recognize this truth and be patient with yourself and with your family members. You will make mistakes. So will they. All of us do and say things when we’re tired and frazzled that we don’t mean. Offer forgiveness and mercy freely, not just to your spouse and your children, but also to yourself. Letting guilt hang heavy over you doesn’t help anyone.
Forgive, live by grace, and move on.
Things will get easier once the breaking in period has passed.
Hopefully these ideas will help you make the transition back to school as painless as possible. What you are doing is so important. You are raising a child with special needs, and you are growing as a result. Take that growth and grace with you into the classroom and make a difference in the lives of your students.
Because your students–and your family–will all benefit from the gifts you have to offer.
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