Grandparents of children with special needs are often unsung heroes in their family’s lives. They are often tremendous advocates for these children. They provide incredible support to both their grandchildren and their parents who often face many challenges outside the home. When a special needs child comes into a family, grandparents, like parents, need time to go through the stages of blame, sadness, anger and acceptance as they adjust to how their expected roles may have changed. Once grandparents are ready to embrace the gift of special needs grandchildren and roll up their sleeves, there are many ways for them to help. The following suggestions come from the parents of special needs children.

  1. Learn about your grandchild’s special needs. The best way to help special needs children is to learn about their disabilities. Parents are often extremely grateful when grandparents take the time to research the childs conditionwhether it is emotional or behavioral (like Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD or Tourettes Syndrome), physical (like epilepsy) or developmental (like autism and Down Syndrome). Sources of information for grandparents include books, trusted online sources, educational presentations and support groups. Grandparents who are armed with information are also likely to have a more positive relationship with their grandchildren because they have a better understanding of the childs needs, strengths and weaknesses.
  1. Communicate with the child’s parents and offer support. For parents of special needs children, knowing that grandparents understand the childs disability can provide parents a sense of relief. There are other ways that grandparents can be a great source of strength and support to parents of special needs children. Grandparents who are willing and able to be present in their childrens and grandchildrens livessuch as by attending doctorsappointments and school eventswill be better able to speak openly with the parents about the grandchilds needs. If parents are willing to be open about the childs disability, grandparents may be open about it, too. Grandparents can further support parents by helping out with the familys hectic schedule or offering babysitting so parents can have respite.
  1. Help advocate for the special needs grandchild. Advocating for a child with special needs is difficult. The journey is emotional, time consuming, and there is a lot to know. Grandparents often take an active role in helping parents advocate for their special needs children. Grandparents can become educated about their grandchilds rights to special education and related services. Federal and State laws, including the Individuals with Disabilities Act, provides many rights for children with special needs enabling them to receive special education and services, often before the age of three. Grandparents can help parents focus on important issues during the ongoing process of advocating for a special needs child. A grandparents involvement can be tremendously helpful, especially since they know first-hand the emotional challenges that the parents face as the family navigates the special education system.
  1. Offer unconditional love. Special needs children receive a great deal of feedback from teachers and professionals who correct them. Parents report being inundated with information about what they shouldand their grandparents, alikeneed unconditional love and acceptance most of all. There is much grandparents can do to show this love. They can learn about their grandchildrens special interests, spend one-on-one time together, and develop their own special rituals with the child, such as simply taking a regular walk around the block. All of these shared experiences can help to create that prized grandparent-grandchild bond. Special needs children need that bond, perhaps even more than typical children.

Grandparents of special needs children have a lot to give, and they contribute meaningfully to the lives of special needs children every day. Special needs children benefit from having involved, nurturing grandparents. In return, grandparents get to experience the amazing discoveries and fulfillment that go along with loving a child with special needs and gifts.

“Today We Had a Substitute….”

Having a substitute teacher can be welcome news for some students. For those students, it can be a chance to try to break the rules and hopefully do less work. For other students—especially children with special needs—having a substitute teacher can be a source of uncertainly, anxiety, frustration and fear. In addition, when having a substitute means that special needs kids miss out on receiving needed supports or accommodations, a substitute can mean a difficult day, missed opportunities for learning, and even getting in trouble.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015 13:04

Confusion Surrounds “Twice Exceptional Children”

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Children who are “twice exceptional” have been around for a long time. Once called “gifted handicapped,” this group of school children has two defining characteristics: 1) they are gifted in one or more areas, and 2) they have learning differences or other disabilities that interfere with their functioning.  Twice exceptional children are, in fact, a large population—one estimate placed the number at 70,000 in the K-12 years.

Monday, 04 May 2015 18:40

What is A Sensory Processing Disorder?

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Does your child crash into walls? Does she throw a tantrum when you try to brush her teeth? Does he cover his ears in a crowded amusement park or shy away from birthday parties? Does she seem insensitive to pain, or overly sensitive to sound or light?

If so, your child may be one of many children who have difficulty processing the information that they take in through their senses.  When children have difficulty processing, or making sense of the sensory information they take in, they may have difficulty responding appropriately in a given situation or environment.  When this difficulty is so severe that it impedes daily functioning, the child may be said to have a Sensory Processing Disorder (an "SPD"). 

What is ESY?  If your child has a disability and receives special education and related services, you'll want to know. The New Jersey Department of Education defines "extended school year" or "ESY" as educational programming beyond the traditional 180-day school year for eligible students with disabilities as outlined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

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