I have been part of Educational Teams as a parent of a child with special needs and as the teacher of students with special needs. Today I highly recommend a book that guides parents, teachers and school administrators. This book lays bare the needs and feelings of both camps and definitely proves that for the sake of the children under their care, parents and schools must work together. We Said, They Said: 50 Things Parents and Teachers of Students with Autism Want Each Other to Know by Cassie Zupke should be read by all adults who play a role in caring, teaching, bringing up, or administering children with different needs, not only those with autism.
Who Is Cassie Zupke? What Is Her Experience with Autism and Schools?
Cassie Zupke is a mother of three teenaged children, who, between them, have mild autism, ADHD, and physical impairments. Ms. Zupke is director of Open Doors Now, a non-profit education and support group for students with mild autism/similar disorders, their families and educators. She has helped train hundreds of K-12 teachers and administrators about autism and how to include children with autism in general education classes. As you can see, Cassie knows what she is writing about and she knows how to explain and bring her points across so readers can relate to her book and feel they can trust her advice.
On her web site, Cassie writes that after listening to hundreds of parents, teachers and school administrators, she has come to the conclusion that their ability to function as a team is often hampered by their lack of understanding of each other’s motivations and limitations. Her book gives educators and parents the necessary tools to build the relationships they need to help their children.
About We Said, They Said: 50 Things Parents and Teachers of Students with Autism Want Each Other to Know
Its 288 pages are divided in two parts. The first part contains 25 things that parents really wish they could say to teachers while the second is 25 things that teachers wish they could say to parents. Cassie Zupke has organized these 50 topics each in their own, short chapters. The book is an easy read, the language used and conversational tone make it very user-friendly for overwhelmed parents of children with special needs or busy educators.
Parents, you can surely relate to Ms. Zupke as she writes:
- Some days I’m lost in the forest of demands, emotions, exhaustion, information, and decisions that autism brings, and my politeness slips.
- …”normal” wasn’t going to happen. My boy wasn’t going to be a typical kid. Not now, not ever. He would improve and build skills and mature, but his autism was always going to be there, waiting and setting traps here and there for the rest of his life.
- Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison… Many people have succeeded in life not only despite their autism, but in some ways, because of it.
- As a parent of a child with autism, my emotions have run the gamut. I’ve felt pride, elation, contentment, confidence, fear, anger, grief, self-pity, and despair. And I’ve felt love—there is always love.
Cassie’s two chapters I’m Tired, and I’m Afraid tug at your heartstrings! She describes how a path of destruction has followed her son since he was able to move on his own. She has replaced broken things, soothed hurt feelings and spent too many days with her child in the emergency room. If you have had to search for medication for your child, your heart will go out to Cassie as she explains, “I researched, prayed, and pondered, then gave him the medicines prescribed. Then I waited, and watched, and prayed some more. I recorded data. I had discussions with his doctor…” Have you experienced the frustration that after all she describes it is discovered the meds do not work! Yes, it is a known fact that parents of children with special needs are tired, very tired!
Are you afraid also? Do you worry about your child’s future? Cassie writes she is afraid of the day her son decides he wants to live independently. She asks herself, “Have I taught him enough so that when I am gone, he can make a life for himself and be safe, happy, and loved?”
Part Two of We Said, They Said
The second part, teachers speaking to parents, is equally well written with the educators wishes very well explained. I hope parents will realize that the large majority of teachers want the same thing for their child as they do. Teachers care about your child and want to see him learn and succeed. Teachers look for supports, accommodations, and modifications to make your child’s days easier and more productive.
What parents do or say at home is what the child brings to school; therefore, parents who undermine the teacher, show no respect for her, and harass the teacher in front of their child make it very difficult for their child to have respect for his teacher and believe in her. Bad parents are actually a liability to their child. All the efforts to help a child can be derailed by parents who refuse to work together to figure out how best to help their child.
I was pleased to see that Ms. Zupke explained why parents should allow the sharing of information about their child. It is very important that teachers be permitted to discuss with the other specialists who work with your child so that together they can decide on the best way to help him. If all who work with your child know his strengths, learning style, needs and interests better results can be obtained by sharing information.
I applaud Cassie Zupke for her chapter, The Other Students in Class. She tactfully explains what a teacher wants for all the kids in her class. Teachers want all their students to grow to be good citizens—competent, knowledgeable, responsible, independent, and caring. Sometimes, the needs of students collide and a teacher’s first responsibility is to keep everyone safe. Also, the teacher can’t allow one child’s behavior to prevent the other kids from learning. The other children have the same rights to an education that this child does.
The author stresses often that children have a much better chance of learning what they need to know when their parents and the teacher work as a team. It starts by treating teachers with respect. Teachers want to meet with parents to discuss things. Arrange meetings to ask questions about things you do not understand or to share information that would benefit the teacher and hence your child.
Parents must remember that all children are unique and what is working with a neighbor’s child will not necessarily be what her child needs. Parents must be realistic and must understand that schools try to teach the whole child not just academics. Your child has to be prepared for life after high school.
Cassie writes that one good way to get to know the school staff and for the staff to get to know a parent is to volunteer at school. Spending time together builds trust, understanding, and best of all a better outcome for your child as his two most important allies learn to work as a team. Therefore without further ado, read this wonderful book for parents and teachers, We Said, They Said: 50 Things Parents and Teachers of Students with Autism Want Each Other to Know by Cassie Zupke.
Excerpt from We Said, They Said: 50 Things Parents and Teachers of Students with Autism Want Each Other to Know
By getting involved at your child’s school, you’ll also be providing an invaluable service to other students in special education. Because of the demands of special-needs families, their parents don’t often volunteer. Parent of kids with special needs typically don’t join the PTA or sit on councils or on the school board. That makes the needs of children in special education a little more invisible. Other parent are getting involved, and since they don’t know much about special education, they don’t always think about the needs of your kids. It’s not intentional, and they’re not discrimination against children with special needs. They just don’t know. If you are there to speak up and work with those parents and school administrators, you’ll be making your school a little more friendly for all students with special needs.
Cassie Zupke is the mother of three teenagers, one of whom has mild autism. A former engineer in NASA’s Deep Space Network, Cassie is also the director of Open Doors Now, a non-profit education and support group for students with mild autism/similar disorders, their families and educators. During the eight years since ODN’s inception, Cassie has designed and operated parent mentoring and support programs; social skills/friendship programs for children, teens and young adults; and educational presentations for parents and educators. Cassie has helped train hundreds of K-12 teachers and administrators about autism and how to include children with autism in general education classes.
Follow Cassie Zupke:
- Twitter @cassiezupke