What parents of kids with disabilities are thinking at the beginning of a new school year.

Read the full transcript:

As a parent of a child with a disability, a new school year can make me feel anxious.

What will other parents tell their children about my kid?

Will those working with him understand his needs?

What if something happens at school and she isn’t able to tell me?

What if teachers have low expectations for my child?

Will my child still receive a quality education?

My heart breaks thinking about bullying.

What if my child does not receive proper care at school?

What if teachers fail to recognize my child’s behavior is communication?

What if my child is forced to make eye contact?

What if a teacher takes recess away as punishment?

What if my child’s classroom is understaffed?

What if the IEP is not being followed?

What if my child is not receiving the supports she needs?

What if an aide is not trained to work with a child like mine?

What if I end up having to fight with the school for my child’s rights?

I want my kid to have friends this year.

I want communication with the teachers.

Mostly, I want my child to be treated with dignity and respect.

To be accepted.

To be included.

To be cared for.

To succeed.

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Some people might look on as we parent kids with disabilities and think our lives must be hard.

Parenting is hard. So hard. Kids don’t come with manuals and you just try to do the best you can. And if your child has a disability, it is true at times “hard” can turn into I-have-no-idea-how-to-do-this-and-I feel-like-I’m-drowning.

Maybe you’ve seen us out in public on one of the hard days — when our kids are overstimulated or when we’re frazzled to the tips.

But even though there are hard days and hard moments and hard hours, they do not steer our lives. What really matters — what is most important — is love.

There are beautiful and perfect moments. There is the good, there is the joy, there is the pride we feel for our kids. There is the excitement of even the smallest accomplishments. And always, always the unending love.

If you ever see a child with a disability and think you could never do it, yes, yes you could do it. Because of love.

So next time you see a parent of a child with a disability, rather than thinking of how hard you imagine it could be, I hope you think about what matters most. I hope you see the love. I hope you think of this:

And this:

Our kids, like all kids, like to play with their favorite toys.

They brighten our days and make us smile.

And we go on adventures together, making adaptations when necessary.

We have a deep connection with our kids.

And we can say “I love you” without having to use words.

Our kids are involved in activities, even if those look different from the norm.

We feel so much pride in their accomplishments.

We hold them tight.

We feel protective of our kids.

They make us smile with their unique personalities and sense of humor.

We walk with them hand-by-hand through life.

Our families are not that different from yours.

And as our children grow, so does our bond.

When our children need us, we are there.

And we delight in these precious kids we get to call our own.

Our travel buddies.

Our mischief partners.

We enjoy sunny days.

Laughs with dad.

How precious they are when they sleep.

And even as the years pass and our roles look different from other parents’, as our kids become adults, that love only grows.

And our grown kids sometimes take care of us, too.

Sometimes we ride roller coasters.

We are smitten by our beautiful kids.

We splash in love.

We take family selfies.

We ride planes and travel far.

We are happy recipients of kisses.

And we love s’mores.

We are family.

We are together.

We are not so different from you.

This is life.

Full.

Rich.

Beautiful.

Ours.

Overflowing with love.

Thank you to our Mighty community for these photo submissions. 


If your child struggles with speech, chances are you are familiar with speech apps.

When my youngest daughter, who has Down syndrome, was 3 years old, the iPad had just launched. It was gaining attention in the parenting community because of apps designed to help children like mine.

Speech apps allow us to do speech therapy at home.

When we began our search for tablets and speech apps, we found there were more options through Apple than Android. That was seven years ago, and Apple still seems to offer some of the best speech apps available.

This might explain why there is coverage through insurance, grants or schools for iPads as opposed to other tablets.

While some apps offer a free version, most speech apps come with a cost. Depending on your child’s need, the app’s price might be covered by waivers or grants.

When my daughter qualified for an iPad through a state grant for kids with disabilities, they also covered the cost of a speech app.

Here are nine of the top-rated speech apps for kids with disabilities.

1. Proloquo2Go

Proloquo2Go is basically a Dynavox in app form. It is a customizable and personalized symbol-supported communication app. The app is designed to promote language development and grow communication skills. It provides a “voice” for those who need it.

Download on iTunes for $249.99

2. AbiTalk

AbiTalk helps improve comprehension, articulation, speech production, receptive and expressive speech. Its apps focus on comprehension (or “wh” questions), sentence building and articulation.

AbiTalk offers five apps for iOS and Android ranging from $1.99 to $7.99.

3. Gemiini

Gemiini is a video-based program, which uses discrete video modeling, a clinically proven way to increase language, reading and social skills. Gemiini has mixed reviews — some parents rave about the benefits and gains, while others say it was not worth the investment.

Gemiini’s app is free to download for iOS and Android but the program costs $98 per month. 

4. Articulation Station

Perhaps one of the most used and recommended apps by speech therapists, Articulation Station helps kids better articulate. It is also a great app for children with speech apraxia.

Articulation Station offers a free version or you can buy the full app on iTunes for $35.99.

5. Nacd Speech Apraxia

One of the best speech apps for children with apraxia of speech, Nacd Speech Therapy for Apraxia offers four different apps: sounds, words, 2 syllables and endings.

You can buy all four apps as a bundle on iTunes for $16.99 or the individual apps for $4.99 each. Android only offers the individual apps for $4.99.

6. ‘WH’ Question Cards

Created by Super Duper Publications — a trusted company dedicated to making engaging and fun learning materials — this app helps kids correctly ask and answer who, what, when, where and why questions.

You can download a free or full version of the app through Super Duper Publication’s website or download the full app on iTunes for $11.99. Android offers a limited version for $1.99.

7. Speech Tutor

Speech Tutor provides animations to show tongue placement and positioning of sounds. It offers a side view and front view of each sound produced in three different speeds: slow, medium and fast.

Download on iTunes for $9.99.

8. Artipix

Artipix allows kids to practice their speech using flashcard and matching activities. Children can also record their own voice and keeps score with games.

You can get a free version through the Artikpix website or download on iTunes for $29.99.

9. Talking Pierre the Parrot

Apps that encourage children to speak help them practice their speech. In this app, Pierre imitates what children say, by saying it back.

Download Talking Pierre the Parrot for free on iOS or Android.


I want my kids to have a successful school year. If you are anything like me, the beginning of the year can make me (and my kids) really anxious. I worry about the new teachers and the people who make up part of my child’s special education team.

As we approach the end of the elementary years, I have found 10 things that help me establish a good relationship with the special education team:

1. Write encouraging notes for teachers and staff throughout the year.

I believe teachers are not often appreciated, and a note just to say, “Have a good day” or “It’s Friday, enjoy the weekend,” can help the teacher know you are thinking about them. I also believe when you need the teachers to be on your side, if you have cultivated thankfulness and have that connection, they will be more likely to support you.

2. When you have a meeting, bring food!

In our culture people gather around food. Food is a “peace” offering. At our last school, we were the only family to bring food, so any time there was a meeting or an IEP, teachers and therapists and anyone else present looked forward to the food. We started the meeting with smiles and being friendly. We still had hard conversations, and there were instances where I had to push them to do more for my child, but those conversations were friendly.

3. Give random gifts if you can (keep it simple!)

I have a friend who occasionally grabs a $5 gift card at Target or Starbucks to give to teachers at different times throughout the year. I have sent in a favorite soda or candy bar. Little things that don’t cost much but are appreciated.

4. Send a letter introducing your child and yourself towards the beginning of the school year.

We usually meet with the teachers before the school year begins, but I also hand them a letter talking about my child and our family. My main goal is to be open and relatable. I want the teachers to know I am always willing to work with them and assure them I want them to reach out when necessary.

5. Consider volunteering in the classroom.

I will be the first to admit I don’t do this. I have no time and work a full-time job. However, I have many other friends who do. The other benefit is you get to watch your child in their classroom setting.

6. When needing to confront teachers, use language such as: “I was wondering…” or, “I was puzzled by…”

The language we use does make a difference. If we can avoid a direct confrontation, teachers or staff are less likely to feel defensive, but when we “wonder” or feel “puzzled” it allows for a more open conversation. If you have ever been to counseling, this might be a strategy you have already learned.

7. Always try to work together.

While we might have different goals and different expectations, it is important we try to work together. Are there areas where we can compromise? What is negotiable? If we can work together, we are more likely to have school consider our perspective. And remember, just because your friend had a negative experience at a school or with a certain teacher, it does not mean you will, too. If you are willing to work together, you will most likely have a different and positive experience.

8. Thank your special education team every time you get a chance.

Even for small things. Teachers and other staff are used to hearing lots of negatives from parents, so the more we can encourage them, the better. If you make them feel good about their job, they will go an extra mile for your child.

9. Pick your battles.

Some things are non-negotiable, but we cannot fight all the battles. Pick your battles wisely, and as your kids get older, ask them! You might be surprised how often our kids have their own ideas of what would work best for them.

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Last night, Pink was awarded the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award at the 2017 VMA’s, and she used her speech to share a compelling story about her daughter.

“Recently, I was driving my daughter to school and she said to me, out of the blue, ‘Mama?’ I said, ‘Yes, baby?’ She said, ‘I’m the ugliest girl I know.’ And I said, ‘Huh?’ And she was like, ‘Yeah, I look like a boy with long hair.’ And my brain went to ‘Oh my god, you’re 6. Why? Where is this coming from? Who said this? Can I kick a 6-year-old’s ass, like what?'”

Unfortunately, this is a conversation many parents face. It must be utterly heartbreaking to hear your daughter at 6-years-old, start being so self-conscious about her body, her looks and her self-worth. Which is why Pink’s response to her daughter was absolutely magical:

“…And I said to her, ‘Do you see me growing my hair?’ She said, ‘No, Mama.’ I said, ‘Do you see me changing my body?’ ‘No, Mama.’ ‘Do you see me changing the way I present myself to the world?’ ‘No, Mama.’ ‘Do you see me selling out arenas all over the world?’ ‘Yes, Mama.’ ‘OK! So, baby girl. We don’t change. We take the gravel and the shell and we make a pearl. And we help other people to change so they can see more kinds of beauty.'”

This is the type of conversations we must have with our children. It is our responsibility to empower them and show them their beauty when they’re not capable of seeing it themselves. But, before we do this, we need to believe it first.

 

Pink’s message is powerful because she doesn’t resort to dismissing her daughter’s beliefs to, “Oh, honey, you’re beautiful just the way you are.” She uses her own example as an active model for her child. She transforms the reductionist value society has placed over the physical image, into an empowering value of our inner beauty and inner strength. More importantly, the stereotype that body image and self-worth only affect girls are long gone, and we must be ready to empower rather than silence.

Media, peer pressure and societal standards have all forced an unreal expectation of what we should all look like. It is our responsibility to challenge these expectations and actively redefine beauty within our new generations. We are forever grateful to Pink for redefining beauty standards and giving us all a lesson about what body positivity parenting looks like.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

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I have two kids with disabilities, which means for us, back-to-school shopping has to meet two main guidelines:

1) Is it sensory friendly?

2) Does my kid have the fine motor skills to use it?

I have seen the cutest water bottles, but realistically my kids do not have the hand strength to open or close them. Shoes with ties are a no-go.

When we shop for back-to-school items, my main concern is for my kids to be as independent and successful as possible. I want the tools available to them to make learning easier and not more of a struggle.

I was at Target a few days ago and came across the best food containers. This got me thinking, I bet some parents have found that one item that makes a huge difference.

So we reached out to our Mighty parents and asked them for ideas on what items they consider a “must have” as their kids begin school.

One thing I want to point out, if you are anything like me, it’s frustrating when our kids have limited options and those options come with a high price tag. Several of the items mentioned could be provided by school, and in one instance, possibly covered by insurance.

These are some of our recommendations:

1. Blue Water Bento containers.

My daughter, who has Down syndrome, has always needed teachers to help her during lunch because we never seemed to have containers she could open independently. These lids just “peel” right off. She was able to open them without issue, which means no more waiting for an aide to come open her food containers before she can start eating her lunch.

Cost: $29.99

2. Jumbo colored pencils.

For kids who need help with fine motor control, chunky pencils help with grip and precision. School might provide appropriate colored pencils for your child. Make sure to ask.

Cost: $4.99

3. Triangular #2 pencils.

Kids go through lots of pencils each year, and not being able to grip the pencil well can result in many broken pencils. These help with grip. This might also be provided by school, ask the special education teacher.

Cost: $8.97 (36 count)

4. PenAgain.

PenAgain ergonomic ink pen helps kids with disabilities.

Alternative pens can help kids grip and write more easily. PenAgain pens have a sensory-friendly, slip-resistant rubber coating, and are refillable. Talk to your OT and see if the school can provide these.

Cost: $7.42 each

5. Nike Revolution 3 Flyease.

Do you notice anything about this shoe? There is a zipper in the back for kids who wear AFOs. I have a child who wear orthotics, and shoe shopping is always a discouragement because it is hard to find shoes that fit and look stylish. This shoe has no ties, so no worries about that either. Some insurance plans cover the cost of shoes for kids who wear AFOs. Nike designed these shoes for that purpose specifically, so call your insurance and ask if they will reimburse you for shoes.

Cost: $52 on Nike’s site.

6. Chewable jewelry.

This is the original chewable jewelry. Run by parents like us. Lots of options to choose from. Designed for kids with sensory issues who seek oral stimulation. Perfect for active chewers.

Cost: $9.95 and up.

7. Electric pencil sharpener.

Electric sharpeners help kids who struggle with fine motor skills. Just remember, when buying an electric sharpener, if you also have chunky pencils, make sure the sharpener is designed to work for those sizes.

Cost: $19.50

8. Click pens.

A click pen with a soft feel. Click pens can work better than a pen with a cap, plus add the more sensory-friendly grip and it’s a win.

Cost: $4.90 (12 count)

9. Grid notebooks.

For some kids, using grid paper is easier than lined paper. This might be covered by school, ask the special education teacher.

Cost: $3.43

10. Key rings or fun keychains.

 

Unicorn keychains.

If your kid has trouble with zippers (backpack, lunchbox, jacket) adding a key ring may help with those fine motor skills. You can find sets of keychains with your child’s favorite character or interest on Amazon. Some keychain charms can double as fidget or stress relief objects. This might be covered by school; ask the occupational therapist.

Cost: $1.57 (plan 10 pack) or $9.99 (fun keychains, pack of eight)

11. Wheelchair push gloves.

Fingerless gloves for pushing wheelchair.

School floors are dirty, and sidewalks can get wet and muddy. Kids who use manual wheelchairs can keep their hands cleaner with a set of fingerless athletic gloves.

Cost: $19.97

12. Locker locks.

If your school requires kids to have locks for their locker, this might be an option for you, and school should cover the cost. Talk to the special education department or therapists, stressing how a magnetic lock will give your child more independence, which is always a goal for our kids. These locks are magnetic, which allows the user to just touch the key to the circular, matching key pad.

Cost: $135.72

What are your “must have” items for back to school? Let us know in the comments.

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