Ideas to Support Children with Special Needs

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In December, National PTA’s Every Child in Focus campaign centers on the Child with Special Needs. Use these ideas to help support children with Special Needs in the school community.


Day of Pairing (Dec. 8)

Use the power of your PTA to connect parents of special needs students. On this day, PTAs across the country will pair parents of special needs children together to form mini support groups. One of the biggest challenges parents of special needs students face is a sense of being overwhelmed, and a sense that they are alone in caring for their child. Pairing parents who understand the challenges involved in caring for a special needs child can help. 

Day of Encouragement (Dec. 15)

Use the power of your PTA to show special needs students that you believe in their abilities, help them set and achieve goals and encourage them to challenge themselves. Find ways to recognize their accomplishments—this will keep special needs students engaged.

Form a Special Needs Task Force

Identify special needs kids. Bring in local experts to talk the parents and teachers of the identified special needs children about their concerns.

Experts include:

  1. School counselors
  2. School psychologists
  3. School Special Education staff
  4. District Program Specialists, Coordinators or Directors
  5. School Principal
  6. General Education teachers
  7. School nurse

Key questions:

  1. What is your child’s biggest challenge?
  2. How can the school help?
  3. How can the school and community best collaborate?
  4. What challenges do you face with your child?
  5. What are your concerns?
  6. What are your needs?

Host a Tutor Recruitment Day

Encourage your school to recruit volunteers to tutor special needs students. Place ads online seeking individuals who have a desire to make a difference and help challenged students excel. Great tutoring has been shown to be the most effective way to help special needs students achieve despite their disability.

Include our paraprofessionals that work with special needs students to see if they can come in and participate as they have the training and the knowledge of the group of students. 

Also using students from their high schools to come in and do after school tutoring would fulfill their Community Service Graduation requirements. Older students enjoy helping younger students and we find it also helps with the mutual respect.

Build a Connect for Respect Special Needs Student Team

Invite students, teachers, community members, and other parents to work collaboratively towards improving school climate for special needs students.

Assess the school climate for special needs students from the perspective of students, families and school personnel. Utilize existing tools and resources from your school.

Key questions:

  1. Is your school welcoming to special needs students?
  2. Is there a climate of teasing and ridicule for special needs students?
  3. Are there programs in place for other students to help special needs students in areas where help is needed?
  4. Do teachers meet regularly to discuss the needs of special needs students, and strategize ways that the administration can collectively help these students achieve?
  5. Is your school inclusive to special need students in clubs, sports and extracurricular activities?
  6. Are the general education teachers that your child may have given a copy of your child’s IEP which shows your child’s goals and expectations along with any testing/classroom accommodation needed?

Engage the school community at Connect for Respect forums, where students, families, school staff and community members come together to share their concerns and brainstorm solutions about how to best work with students with special needs.

Develop an action plan to educate and empower family members and students, create safer and more supportive environments and enact and enforce effective anti-bullying policies.

Empower students, family members and others to implement strategies that reflect the community’s unique strengths, needs and existing school climate efforts.