New Year's resolutions can help parents of children with special needs improve their lives as well as their children's lives. Here are five concrete resolutions for parents to consider:
1. Get organized
Most parents of children with special needs have lots of paperwork to keep track of including medical records and school reports. Parents need to keep these documents in a safe place and a place where they can find documents easily. Here are some tips to help parents get organized:
- Set up a filing system. Use whatever type of system suits. Some people prefer binders with tabs while others prefer traditional folders in a filing cabinet.
- Keep separate sections or folders for medical records, medical and psychological reports, reference materials, school records, correspondence and your own notes.
- Include archive files or folders for documents that are more than one or two years old. Set up your archive file in the same manner as your current file so you can easily find a document if you need it.
- Once your current and archive systems are set up, go through all your papers and file them.
2. Mark your calendar
Now is the time to put all important dates in your electronic or paper calendar. Input all dates from your children's school calendars into your personal calendar. Also, include dates for medical or therapy appointments. Even if you don't have a specific date for something important, an IEP (individual education plan) review for instance, pencil in the approximate date so that you will have plenty of time to prepare for it.
3. Emphasize your children's strengths
Parents spend so much time fighting to get their children's entitlements that they may overlook their children's strengths. Find out what your children's strengths are and talk to your children's schools about developing them further. For example, if your children are good at computers see if their schools will incorporate more computer work into their school days.
4. Plan for your children's futures
The level of children's disabilities will determine how much planning parents need to do for the future. If your children's needs are significant, consider speaking with an attorney who specializes in special needs planning to put a financial plan in place for the future.
If your children are teenagers, develop a plan to make sure your children have the social skills necessary for dating, relationships, going to college and getting jobs. If your children want to go to college, check whether there are any special preparations or accommodations for college applications and standardized tests.
5. Network with other parents
The knowledge and experience of other parents are invaluable resources that many parents disregard. Other parents can give you:
- information on different teachers
- practical tips on homework, special needs apps, assistive technology and lots more
- emotional support
If you find these tips helpful, please share them with other parents. If you have any other tips, please include them in a comment below. Happy New Year!