Working With Special Education Teachers - The Warrior's Journey®
Family Brokenness

Working With Special Education Teachers

Author: Brendon O'Dowd, USAF (Ret.)

Supplies. Photo by National Guard is licensed under CC By 2.0

PCSing is a way of life for the military.

You pick up and move every few years for a new assignment with new adventures, knowing deep down that constant movement can be hard on your family, especially your special needs child(ren). Consistency is critical for their development, but consistency is an option that is rarely afforded to military families. You understand this dilemma and how it affects your child’s education, but finding solutions takes energy and patience that are often in short supply. Guilt, anger, and frustration put you on the defensive, and this is heightened when you meet with your child’s teacher or administrator.

101214-F-2185F-215<br /> U.S. Army Spc. Erik Martin (left), with the Zabul Provincial Reconstruction Team, enters the village of Khwazi, Afghanistan, while on a dismounted mission to survey the village for a new well on Dec. 14, 2010. The Zabul Provincial Reconstruction Team is comprised of Air Force, Army, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development and U.S. Department of Agriculture personnel who work with the government of Afghanistan to improve governance, stability and development throughout the province. DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson, U.S. Air Force. (Released)

Military members know that trying to defend a position or location is much more difficult than taking the offensive. Defending a position takes resources and lots of them. It takes constant surveillance, leaving no time to rest or relax. It keeps you in constant tension, ready to react in a moment’s notice.

Perhaps you are feeling this way in dealing with your child’s situation at school. You are constantly on edge, looking for any attack on the wellbeing of your child and your family. Any suggestion of change, or news of failure to progress drains your already depleted resources. You have secured your position and are ready to defend it with your life, but there is another way.

God even knows what it is like to have a Son who is misunderstood and treated poorly (Isaiah 53).

You can take the offensive.  Account for the resources you do have and then determine your objective. Your resources include the law, the importance of parental perspective, and a God who is intimately involved with every detail of your life.

1- you need to remember that the law is on your side.

Your child is protected by law and the school must provide a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). This education must also be provided in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) to the maximum extent possible. The school system should work with you to place your child in the most appropriate and beneficial setting. These concepts can be overwhelming and it is best to find help in navigating the legal issues through a support group.

2- Remember that you have a perspective that the teacher will never have.

This is your child. The teacher does spend a good portion of the day with your child, but you see him or her at critical moments of the day. You have information and insights that can help educators to successfully provide the best education possible. They need your partnership.

3- Remember that God is watching over you and your child.

Five-year-old Maddie Lovell, right, clings to her father, U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jacob Lovell, of 585th Military Police Company, during a welcome home ceremony, at Marysville High School, in Marysville, Ohio, Aug. 13, 2010. Lovell and about 170 other Soldiers, of 585th Military Police Company returned home, from the unit's first deployment, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, after training over 500 Iraqi Police officers, conducting anti-terrorism and force protection missions, and providing Provost Marshall law enforcement, in Iraq's Anbar Province. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Sean Mathis/Released)Attention to detail is His very nature—the very hairs of your head are numbered (Mathew 10:30)! God even knows what it is like to have a Son who is misunderstood and treated poorly (Isaiah 53). Take time to talk to Him about all that is going on.

Accounting for resources is only the first step, you must also determine your long-term objective. Meetings, new teachers, and assessments happen on a continual basis and can take your focus off the big picture. Instead, think in terms of a 10-year plan. Where do you realistically see your child in 10 years? Use your support group to keep it real and help you think through the objective.

How you take the offensive is just as important as the objective. Paul says it best by telling us that we need to move by the Spirit and not the flesh (Galatians 5:13-26). This Spirit-controlled movement is obeying the command to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. The teachers and administrator are your neighbors. Consider what are they might be thinking, what difficulties they are facing, and what they need. Walking a mile in their shoes provides a good perspective in helping us love them. Spirit movement is also seen when we have the fruit of the Spirit.

The fruit can act as a checklist for how we approach the teacher and administrator.

  • What specifically can I say or do to show them the love that God showed me?
  • Is my speech and manner exhibiting a sense of joy that is contagious?
  • Am I at peace even in these difficult circumstances?
  • Am I patient with them and my child(ren)?
  • How can I be kind in word and deed?
  • What is something good I can do for the teacher and school?
  • Am I faithful in how I am approaching my child’s situation (do I trust God in having my child’s best interest at heart)?
  • Am I gentle with those around me?
  • Do I have self-control (especially in contentious meetings)?


You can communicate your goals, concerns, and desires in a different way because you have the Spirit. Now take the offensive!

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