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Shonna Tuck
BY Shonna Tuck

Its October and my Child with Special Needs is Already Having a Difficult Time in School

Welcome to October.

By now your family is down to one freezer pack, has replaced the lunch bag at least once, and misplaced a dozen important sign-up sheets.

Kids are wearing mismatched socks and there’s a stain on the new must-have jeans that are crumpled in a forgotten heap on your daughter’s bedroom floor.

Your kids, who sat down eager to do their homework every night with fresh-baked banana bread and smoothie snack during that September honeymoon, are now skulking around avoiding eye contact when you ask, ”Do you have homework?”

Their demeanor has gone from bible school wholesome to jaded prison vet.

Welcome to October.  Now your kids are all really back at school.

Families at this point of the academic year tend to fall into three broad, un-scientifically proven categories.

Category A: My Child’s Teacher is Amazing

You may be experiencing embarrassingly passionate feelings for that once-in-a-lifetime teacher that your vulnerable child has. You know the one who just “gets him.” Your child loves going to school and you know you will never forget him/her.

Category B: Time to Call the Teacher

You may find yourself repeating to your child, “She’s sending you to the office for what?… or the hallway for how long? What do you mean your desk is at the back of the class and you have been reading the same picture book since September?”  You are now often saying things like,  ‘I really should call the teacher.’

A slow kind of building anxiety will likely soon hit you- kind of like when you are drinking fruity tropical drinks all afternoon and then try to stand up to go to the bathroom.

Category C: Downhill Fast

Typically begins something like this-

Excerpt from * Notes in the agenda:

Hello! J

It’s been a busy morning! We had a little incident at the play structure…. J

Then the meetings, first with just the teacher….

“Well, Mrs._____ we just love J __________’s energy and sense of humor!! J

We are noticing however….

and once you get to the however…. you know that despite all that positive “sandwiching” there is still [email protected]#$%& in the middle.

Soon things evolve into phone calls and meetings.

Ring- “Hi Mrs.__________________ we have _________________ in the office seems he______________________________________________________________.”

Then the meetings, with the teacher, and the LST, LMNOP and the blah, blah, blah specialist…..

Then you get to where you hear….RING- (and you now know the number when you see it come up on your cell)….

So you let it go to voicemail to give yourself time to process the latest, greatest reason your child just doesn’t, can’t, and won’t do what the other kids in his class can.

The message says grimly, ominously,

(You are now on a first name basis)….. we have________________ in the office….He has___________________________________________________

 and______________________and_________________and Even______________________________________________________


We need you to come and pick him up to take him home now”.



If you are experiencing category A:
crack open the gratitude journal, grab a pumpkin spice latte and relax into this very important year.

If you can relate to categories B or C- these suggestions are for you:

    1. Keep correspondence in writing.
      It helps keep communication clear, shows you mean business and holds everyone accountable.


    1. Get your child involved in things outside of school.
      Don’t let school solely define him. Outside interests also give your child a chance to develop friendships beyond the classroom.


    1. Volunteer in the classroom.
      Try to be as inconspicuous as possible to see for yourself the dynamic and culture to be able to provide insights into how to help your child.


    1. Spend time with your child daily.
      Even 5 minutes reconnecting with your child with his people. In other words, his family who love him as he is. No matter what. Spend time face to face, doing something simple that he enjoys.


    1. Let it go.
      He may be battling all day and ready to explode when he gets home. Ask yourself- is this going to physically, emotionally, spiritually harm him, others or the world. If the answer is no, let it go if you can.


    1. Praise him.
      Real, specific, intentional praise acts as an inoculation to protect him against the negativity that he is experiencing in his daily life.


  1. Praise yourself.
    In a world that allocates its money and resources primarily to the average kids in schools, having a child with differences can create a mismatch of expectation. Praise all that you do to show your child he is loved, accepted and valued every day.

The real, hard truth is that school -as it is generally structured (ie. funded) cannot fully nurture positive growth in everyone, every year.  It can feel impossible in the middle of a not-so-great year to see how your child learning to navigate difficult waters can create society’s most insightful, sensitive, out-of-the-box innovators.

In October, it may help to remember this quote by Steve Jobs:

 “Here’s to the rebels, … the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward they can change the world.”

And here’s to you parents and loved ones of these beautiful, out-of-the-box thinkers and doers.

Shonna Tuck

Written on October 2, 2017 by:

Shonna Tuck is a mom of two, and a speech-language pathologist who has been in practice for more than 20 years working with children. She has particular expertise in helping socially vulnerable young children whose communication issues are related to attention disorders, sensory needs, autism, and executive functioning challenges. She is the author of a new book entitled Getting From Me To We: How To Help Young Children Make And Keep Friends (Pubisher: Woodbine House). This book was written to help parents and professionals support young kids who are having trouble fitting in their classrooms, with connecting with their classmates and with children outside of school. Contact Shonna at: