Special Needs Translates to “Extra Help”

Changing the term “Special Needs to “Extra Help”

Hello Teachers!

This is important information for you as it relates to the students in your classroom who need “extra help.” Here is a recent question that I received from a mom who has a child with “special needs.” As I responded to it, I realized that it is time to change the term. While “special needs” focuses on deficit area(s), “extra help” acts on doing whatever is necessary to lead the child on to success.


I have a daughter, Madison, who is now 7 years old, who has special needs.  In a nutshell, Madison was born 9 weeks premature, and has had issues that follow her to this day.  Since she was born she has received every therapy, first through Early Steps, then through Child Find, and for the past several years, privately.  Madison continues to have speech and language issues, as well as significant learning disabilities.  In addition, she is a very severe stutterer.  Otherwise, she is a very happy first grader who attends a charter school in Boynton Beach.

We are in the process of getting her tested to try and figure out the correct placement for her.  I believe socially the best thing for her is to keep her mainstreamed, however, she is a year behind her peers and even with all the support she receives all day, is having a hard time keeping up. We are wondering if we need to send Madison to American Academy or Lighthouse Point Academy for children with severe learning disabilities.  She will receive the McKay scholarship, but even so, it will still cost about 23K each year, and again, I worry about the peer group.

In addition, we are always looking for tutors.  Both academic, and behavioral.  Thank goodness for the most part, Madison is a pleasure in the outside world.  However, at home with us she is quite a handful, and it has become a challenge trying not to let her behavior negatively impact her three year-old sister.

I am wondering if there is any advice you can give me on schools, tutors, or resources.  As I am sure you are well aware Madison’s therapies alone are incredibly expensive.  I want to make sure I am leaving no stone unturned in terms of getting her the help she needs and exploring every resource available in Palm Beach County (we live in West Boynton Beach).

~ Madison’s Mom


Hi Madison’s Mom,

Thank you so very much for contacting me. I love having this opportunity to talk to you about special needs and advise you the best I can about them. Since all children are individuals with different strengths and weakness, the strategies I have developed to enhance and enrich development are designed for all… just to be tailored individually and uniquely by the parents who use them.

Your concept of “mainstream” is excellent and should be maintained. We all have the same 24 hours each day to use in the best ways we can, and we all also are a product of our experiences. The idea is to do what we can to make our children’s experiences as good as possible. Special education is tricky. It is necessary for the extra support and intervention it supplies, but at the same time it can block important essential exposure for “normal” development.

Parent support and camaraderie is another important avenue to keep open. Talking with other parents who face or have faced some of the same challenges helps a lot. This “special” job that we have is a “creative” one. There is no one route to take or any simple formula available. It is always a work in progress. “There is always more than one way to skin a cat.”

My best advice is to always keep in mind, as you continue to pursue services for your daughter, a clear idea of what you are hoping to accomplish at that particular time. Always keep evaluating your resources by the enrichment they provide in these five developmental areas–cognitive, motor, social-emotional, and language. They are all important.

Where have we traveled? To the destination that includes as many regular activities like dance, sports, music, art and play as possible combined with the most effective therapeutic intervention(s). Special needs parenting is not easy. You have to do all the regular care that all children need and then in addition, meet the extra challenges. If that sounds difficult, it is.

I hope the daily tips on  Parenting Tips with Dr. Sally will provide you with good ideas and many starting points to pursue. Each one is based on both research and application. They are all enhanced by my personal experience. I also hope that by the interactive nature of the different blogs on this site that you will also receive additional parental and professional help. If you have particular teachers or specialists who you work with, please invite them to join in as well. In that way we can all work together.

Thank you very much for participating with us..

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