For those who are parents to children with special needs, here are five ways to protect and advocate for them on their behalf.
As the parent of a special needs child, I am outraged at the recent Facebook Live attack of a Chicago suburban special needs teen. The video shows assailants beating and abusing the victim, as he sit bound and gagged in a corner.
There are more than 2.3 million children with special needs in the United States. Fourteen percent of school-aged children have special needs. Yet, they are still one of the most vulnerable and least talked about groups. There are actions that we can take to protect all children with special needs, one of the least talked about groups in the country.
Protecting children with special needs should be a priority. Here are a few ways to do so.
Stop using the “R” word. Over the last two years, multiple campaigns have been waged to stop using the outdated word, “retarded.” The most appropriate term or phrase to use for people with special needs is “intellectually delayed” or “cognitive delay.” Most individuals with a diagnosed disability would rather be seen for who they are personally rather than the title of their disability. Some even prefer the term “differently abled.” Rather than saying, “autistic,” it is more appropriate to say “person with autism.” Technically, the words, “moron” and “idiot” are also inappropriate words to use. Historically, they are derogatory words used to describe someone with a low IQ. By starting to change our speech, we can start to change the culture of how special needs children and adults are viewed in society.
Monitor their social media activity. If your special needs child has a social media account, make sure you have their password. Monitor how much they are online and who they are talking to. Keep a record of strange requests and relationships that they have online. Getting dial-up internet instead of wireless is another good way to maintain control over internet interactions.
Visit the school. Attend the back-to-school night at the beginning of the year. Introduce yourself to their teachers and make sure to know the protocol for bullying and reporting incidents. It is also good to know the name of the principal. Email all correspondence. No text messages or written letters.
Ask questions. Write down a list of questions for administrators. Check the laws in your state involving people with special needs. The state of Texas allows cameras in the classroom. If you are uncomfortable asking questions, look for the local advocacy group in your area and have them inquire on your behalf.
Follow Your instinct. If something does not seem right about your child’s activity online or a person caring for your child, do not feel like you have no voice. Speak up and schedule a meeting. Make sure to attend the meeting with someone else, so you do not feel overwhelmed. You are your child’s biggest advocate and their voice.
Eraina Ferguson is a writer and tech Entrepreneur. She is the Founder of Good Life, a resource website for families of children with special needs.