You are More Than a Special Education Parent or Teacher (Ep 128)
You are more than a teacher. You are more than a parent. You are MORE!
That's exactly why I brought Amanda DeLuca and Kate Swenson on the show to talk about a topic that's quite often seen as taboo. We're going to hit some of those tough questions and give you some bigger solutions, too.
Amanda DeLuca is mom to a son of the autism spectrum. She felt "like she was playing a game [she] didn't know the rules to" which is what led her to become a Master IEP Coach. Amanda works in educational advocacy and proudly serves family both locally and remotely to empower them to come to the IEP table with confidence while working collaboratively with their team. Her blog, Jackson's Journey, Jackson's Voice is an awesome resource for special needs parents!
Kate Swenson, the founder of Finding Cooper's Voice, is a mother to four kids, a wife, and a proud Minnesotan. She writes and creates videos regularly about her life as a mother and an autism advocate for Facebook, Instagram, and her website, Finding Cooper's Voice. Her book, Forever Boy, A Mother's Memoir of Autism and Finding Joy, is available now and highlights the transformation that she went through after her son's diagnosis.
These ladies have been to their fair share of IEP meetings, so they know that IEP meetings can seem very hyperfocused on getting everything done in that single meeting. But as caregivers, we need to look beyond the IEP. Our children change and suprise us every day, so just because a meeting happens in October, that doesn't have to be the only time input is given! Parents, share what information you see at home so that all members of the IEP team are equal. Kate aldo mentioned sharing non-IEP wins with the team. This is such an easy way to humanize what can start to feel like a file folder of data instead of a child.
I've talked about how IEP meetings don't need to be so cold, but let's face it: surrounded by this much data can make even teaching and parenting feel clinical. We have to remember that we are more than just moms and teachers. That's where the vision of The More Than Project was born.
The More Than Project
Amanda and Kate's nonprofit, The More Than Project, aims to provide free telehealth and mental health counseling for caregivers of special needs children. With both women being special needs mothers, they understood the stress, exhaustion, and struggle that comes with special needs caregiving and wanted to serve others with the support they wish they had years ago. As time went on, they recognized that supporting the caregiver was important but wanted to explore avenues to support the special needs family unit as a whole. This inspired the More Than Project as the overseeing body for More Than a Caregiver, More Than a Sibling, and other initiatives.
I remember growing up as a special needs sibling that the generations before didn't speak publicly about the struggles of special needs parenting. It's so refreshing to see Amanda and Kate openly expressing their needs and encouraging others to ask for the help they need as a person, not as a caregiver.
Tune in around the 13:00 mark where Kate and Amanda talk about Team No Sleep - we have all been there! Watching the midnight hours on the clock tick by, knowing you can't get out of bed without ruining the work you've already put in, thinking about how much needed to get done, and dreading the day to come where no amount of coffee will make it easier. It's moments like these that have to be talked about, to show others that it's going to be okay.
Maybe you're not in a place where you can start a nonprofit like Amanda and Kate. Maybe you're not in a place where you can become a Master IEP Coach. That's okay! You can still lean on those of us that are in that place! We want to help!
More Than a Teacher
The More Than Project launched their next fundraiser on April 11th featuring an exclusive "I am More" bracelet design. They have partnered with The Spotlight Project who raises employment in individuals with an intellectual or developmental disability and to shine a light on their talents. All proceeds from this sale will be going towards their "More Than a Teacher" initiative.
Here's a glance at the episode...
[1:15] "I felt like I was playing a game I didn't know the rules to."
[6:15] "I can't think of [my son] in a clinical setting for school, it just didn't work for me. So I had to change my mindset, 'That's stuff's great, she's focusing on that and I can support her but I'm going to keep him a little boy.'"
[13:09] "[Grief] is an ever moving target in special needs parenting... but someone else understands."
*Don't forget to leave a review of the episode on your favorite streaming service. They mean more than you know!
Learn to Become a Master IEP Coach www.masterIEPcoach.com/info
Get free weekly IEP training! www.masterIEPcoach.com/masterclass
Get expert IEP Help you can’t get anywhere else! www.masterIEPcoach.com/innercircle
Connect with Amanda and Kate:
Our nonprofit, The More Than Project: Foundation - Finding Cooper's Voice | Welcome to the Secret World of Autism
Kate's book, Forever Boy: https://amzn.to/3691swl
Home - Finding Cooper's Voice | Welcome to the Secret World of Autism (findingcoopersvoice.com)