To the Special Needs Parents Who Worry About Their Kids in School

To the parents of a child with special needs,

I’m a special education teacher. But I’m also the mother of a beautiful little boy with autism. Like any other mother who has a child with special needs, I have mixed emotions about my son starting school. I am terrified for him. New teachers, a new environment, a new routine — these can be scary things for a young person with autism. What if he refuses to get on the bus in the morning? What if he becomes so overwhelmed that he lashes out and hurts another child? What if he doesn’t like his teacher?

But at the same time, I’m also excited for him to begin a new chapter in his life. I have hopes and dreams that he will make friends, continue to improve his social skills and make some progress academically.

I’m blessed because I have seen this scenario countless times from a different perspective. I have seen many frazzled, scared and hesitant mothers arrive for their child’s first day of school. No doubt with the same worries, hopes and dreams that I have for my son. And this is what I want you to know.

When we chose to be special education teachers, we knew what we were getting ourselves into. We knew the job would be challenging and exhausting, but we chose to do it anyway. Because when we see our students making progress, no matter how big or small, it is the most rewarding feeling in the world.

We will look after your child. We will do everything in our power to make them feel safe, comfortable and happy. We will do our best to give them access to the curriculum, but at the same time, we won’t push them further than they are capable. We want them to succeed as much as you do.

We are happy to liaise with therapists, pediatricians, case workers and parents. Don’t feel like you are being annoying because you think of something else we need to know about your child every day. The more information you can give us, the easier it is for us to cater for their needs.

Yes it is scary sending your child off to school for the first time. Yes it may take them a little while to adjust. But I promise you, we will take good care of your child and treat them as if they were our own. We will shed a happy tear for their successes and work with them to help them through any challenges that may arise. There are times when you may catch us grinning from ear to ear, or dancing around excitedly, because your child initiated a conversation today or went up a reading level. We want to see your child succeed as much as you do.

It’s OK to be scared. I’m scared, too. But I promise you, everything will be OK. Better than OK. We will do everything in our power to help your child thrive.

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