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Tips for Military Parents on Supporting Their Children in Special Education

Parents Of Children With Special Needs – Military Children It’s critical that you have the right professionals (e.g., educators, case workers, and others) supporting your child’s needs, but remember that you are your child’s best ally and advocate. Here are some tips for supporting your military child’s needs if he or she has a learning disability — at home, in school, and in the community at large.

Your Child’s Social and Emotional Needs

While school and learning are important, don’t overlook your child’s social and emotional needs. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Be mindful of how the military lifestyle may affect your child’s self-esteem and emotional state — for better or worse. Encourage him to tell you how he feels and address any problems, with professional help if necessary.
  • Create a sense of social continuity for your child. Luckily, technology developments in recent years have made this easier than ever. Stay in touch with family members at a distance, as well as with friends from your previous neighborhoods. Help your child connect with them through phone calls, email, video chats, social networking sites, letters, and postcards.
  • Encourage your child to make new friends when you move to a new location. Support his efforts by hosting play dates, meeting other parents, and joining community groups. When you’re living on base, it’s easier to meet others who understand the military lifestyle. If you’re not living on base, you may need to make an extra effort to help your child connect with new friends, especially if the school year is already underway.

Your Child’s School Experience and Learning

You have the power to be your child’s best advocate and help him succeed in school. Try these tips to help your child learn successfully at school – and in life:

  • Understand your child’s specific disability and how it affects him. For example, if he has a reading disability and needs audio books to help him read successfully, be sure his teachers are aware of this and make sure that those accommodations are part of your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).
  • Partner with your child’s teacher by reaching out and opening the lines of communication. Share important information about your child, be open to the teacher’s feedback and ideas, and try to keep the relationship positive and constructive. Given that you’re likely to relocate every few years, it’s especially important to establish those parent-teacher-school connections as soon as possible.
  • Recognize your child’s strengths and talents; help him develop them to offset his disability and also increase his self-esteem. For instance, a child who struggles with reading might be an amazing artist. Make sure he has opportunities to express himself through art at school, at home, or in another setting. A focus on strengths and talents will likely help your child to readjust more easily when he changes schools.

Make the Most of Every Move

The military lifestyle offers exciting opportunities with each new deployment, whether you relocate to a new state in the U.S. or abroad. Examples for you and your family to try:

  • Before you move, you and your family can learn about your future community. Tap into military and community resources for information, and also do some research on your own. Involve your child in this process by asking what he or she is most interested in knowing about your family’s new location.
  • After you move, look for opportunities to learn about the history, culture, and natural environment of your new location.
  • Share what you learn with family and friends across the miles. Send (or post online) postcards, photographs, video, and stories about your new locale.
  • If you move to a different climate (e.g., from desert to snow country), explore new sports and activities that weren’t possible where you lived before.
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