Practical Moms Feature: Things I Can’t Say


I know what you’re thinking…we just got out of school.  Some of you might even be thinking that you’re still waiting for school to end.  So why are you staring at a picture of a miniature pencil worn to the end?  Because sometimes the end of school is also the time that you need to think about the beginning of school…even if you really want to think about cocktails and sunsets.

The beginning of Kindergarten is a big change.  And when you have kids who need a little extra help (with or without the IEP)…you need to plan ahead.  I asked my friend Shell to drop by and share her thoughts, because she is one of the best advocates out there.  She works hard and she is a lot of great things but, above all, she loves her boys and advocates for them every step of the way.

If you are a blogger, chances are you already know her.  I’m sitting here trying to think of all of the very best things I can say about Shell (there are many, trust me), but the thing that stands out the most is that she’s kind.  She truly cares about other people and when she jumps in and helps it’s because she genuinely wants to help.

Shell blogs over at Things I Can’t Say, which is equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking depending on the day, and you should definitely head over there and introduce yourself and visit her very active Facebook Page.  But first…some very practical advice from Shell.


Right now can be an emotional time for any mom whose child will be starting kindergarten in the fall. Your baby is growing up and heading off to school full time.
But when your child has special needs, there can be a whole different level of anxiety that goes along with that big step.
My middle son has ADHD, PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified, an autism spectrum disorder), along with sensory issues, and a speech delay. He is just finishing up his kindergarten year and he has had the best experience.
As you get ready for next year, here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way:

Call the school and talk to the principal.

Let her know what concerns you have for the upcoming school year. The principal is the one who can ensure your child gets the teacher who will be the best fit for your child and can get the ball rolling on services your child will need. Start that communication early.

Gather all evaluations and paperwork.

You’ll save a lot of time if you have all the paperwork on hand from the beginning instead of waiting for the school to do its own testing. When we enrolled my son, we had the paperwork from an eval done just weeks before, so they were able to use that instead of having to go through the process of reevaluating him through the school. The more information you have and can share with the school, the further you’re starting in the process. Though if you don’t agree with some of the evaluations and you’d prefer to start over, that’s something to keep in mind as well.

Have a conference before school starts.

The absolute best thing I feel that we did for my son was to have a meeting with the principal, classroom teacher, special needs teacher, speech teacher, and OT before he even started his first day. While they couldn’t write an official IEP before they actually were able to observe him in the classroom, they were able to take the information that I gave them about my son and put interventions in place from his very first day of school. They weren’t official IEP goals and they did make some changes as they better came to understand his needs. But from day one, they knew that we couldn’t just wait and see what would happen with a sink or swim attitude. They didn’t want him to sink. Your child shouldn’t have to sink before he gets help.

View the school as being on your child’s team.

I know there are nightmare stories out there about schools that don’t help our special needs kids. I’ve lived through those at my son’s kindergarten prep school. But start with a positive attitude and thinking that the school is there to help your child. The negative stories get a lot of attention but there really are good caring teachers and administrators out there. If you start with a negative attitude, you’ll put them on the defensive and it will set the tone for your interactions. Try to start with everyone working together. You can always change your tune if the team isn’t being helpful, but start out positive.

Know your child’s rights.

Know what is possible to do for your child and what is not. Talk to other special needs parents. Talk to the district’s special needs coordinator. Know that you don’t have to agree to anything right away. You can do research before signing any IEP. Know that while the norm is to have an IEP meeting once a year, you can call a meeting of the team at any time to discuss progress and any changes you feel need to be made.

Isn’t she great?!?! Thank you so much, Shell.  I just know that sharing what you’ve learned will help some other nervous mamas out there…

About Katie

Katie Hurley is a Child, Adolescent, and Family Psychotherapist and Parenting Expert in Los Angeles, CA. She works in private practice in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, writes for PBS Parents, Washington Post Parents, and the Huffington Post. She is the author of "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World" (Tarcher/Penguin, 2015) and "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" (Penguin Random House, 2018)


  1. […] and you should be following her for helpful parenting tips!) asked me to share what I learned about getting ready for kindergarten with my special needs child. I’d love for you to head over and […]