What was the inspiration for writing this book?
I was working on a business plan for my company, Special Mom Advocate, and I realized I wanted to really teach moms what they needed to know to take care of themselves, their kids and the special education process. So truly it was to share the information as far as possible.
What is your background?
Well I’ve been a graphic designer for 25 years, and became a special needs mom in 2004 when our son first started exhibiting issues. Since then I have advocated for him and many other children, working to get the right supports in school. In 2017 I completed a masters in educational counseling and I am working towards licensure as a therapist so I can provide more support to families with special needs children.
What kind of research did you have to do for this book?
I did not have to do a lot of research because so much of the book is from personal experience. In the last section of the book I did have to do research to determine what was federal law versus California law. Since each state expands on the laws, and sometimes makes it stricter, I had to be certain the information I was sharing applied to all 50 states, not just California.
Your book is geared toward the Special Ed Mom, with a special shout-out to Dads. How do you feel about professionals, whether teachers, therapists, or otherwise, also reading this book? What can they gain from doing so?
I think it is really wonderful if an educator or therapist is willing to read this book. It will bring them into the perspective of a special ed parent, and how they struggle with more than just getting help at school. I don’t think the schools really understand the emotional toll this journey has on a family, so learning about that might help them be more gracious when working through the IEP or 504 process.
As an educator, I often found myself battling those who had more “old school” approaches and ideas about special education. The younger professionals always seemed to have a better grasp on the broad spectrum of diagnoses and therapies than the older crowd. Have you seen the same trend? Do you have any advice for handling those more “old school” approaches?
I haven’t seen this trend, although what I have seen is more integration of special education knowledge in masters curriculums for teachers. So this could be one of the reasons younger educators understand better. Also, with more and more kids being diagnosed, younger educators probably knew peers with challenges.
As for handling people who seem old school and not willing to learn more, I think parents should educate them. I have on my website a Disability Info Sheet where parents can write up specific details about how the child’s disability manifests in the classroom. Through not only explaining the disability, but outlining how it shows up, it helps the teachers begin to realize that the accommodations or therapies serve a real purpose.
One thing I did for my son is write out the areas he struggles, and then I list each of the specific accommodations that help him with that area of disability. For example, he still has executive function issues. He has an accommodation to turn in assignments up to 2 days late because he sometimes forgets to turn them in. Helping the teachers understand WHY he is getting the support often helps them fall in line with IEP compliance.
I wanted to thank you for encouraging parents to work with their child’s teachers. I know that there are people out there who deliberately do not make accommodations for children. I’ve heard, “Oh, it’s just a 504, I am not required to make those accommodations,” among other such lines. You outlined some of the reasons this could happen: laziness, lack of support, lack of awareness of laws and rules. What advice do you have for teachers who want to do right but don’t know how to do so? What is the best way for teachers to help parents?
The best thing teachers can do is familiarize themselves with the 504 and IEP, and then encourage the student to ask for help. Even younger students can learn to say I need a movement break or I want to go to a quiet room to do my independent work. Teaching the child is the best answer all around because they can then self-advocate for support.
Also, ask the parents how the disability manifests at home. Does it affect homework? Does the parent need strategies to help the child? If you strategize with the parent, they are going to be more open and cooperative. You are all part of the same team, so support the parent like you would a fellow teacher, but with regards to schoolwork at home.
It is so hard to get moms to take care of themselves as it is, let alone when they have to deal with children with special needs. I have had friends who regularly ignore that need, no matter what you tell them, no matter what therapists tell them, etc. How do you get someone to even start to think about that self care when they don’t think they can do it?
It has to start in small steps. Even only 5 minutes a day if that is all you have. Perhaps you spend 5 minutes longer in the shower. Or maybe you just go sit on the porch and watch cars and people go by. Find little things you can do to rejuvenate your spirit.
For example, for me, I’ll listen to a favorite song and sing along really loudly. Especially when it’s a song like Hallelujah from Pentatonix or It’s My Life from Bon Jovi, it can really reset your whole mood. Self care does not have to take hours. I’m writing a blog post right now where I am gathering 25 Mom Mini Moments to rejuvenate your energy and spirit. Focus on those little things, and over time you will crave the extra support. Hopefully then you can find longer moments to really rest and rejuvenate.
You have a lot of thought-provoking questions at the end of many chapters. Have you ever considered turning these sections into an accompanying workbook or journal?
Yes. I am currently working on a Bullet Journal for Special Needs Moms. It’s due to be published in August 2018. It will have a lot of worksheets related to the book. It will also have a lot of forms to help manage daily life. I know moms don’t have time to create a bullet journal, so I will lay it out in a way that looks hand drawn, so they only have to fill in the information. Perhaps in those 5 minute snippets they can color some of it too. I won’t publish it bound. It will be a printable so then they can print as many pages as they need or want.
Tell us more about your Grounded For Life deck.
I created that deck 7 years ago. Grounding was a critical tool for helping my son when he used to be super hyper and had meltdowns often. We would use grounding to keep him settled and avoid overstimulation. Grounding is really about paying attention to the body and bringing your focus back to now. The deck has 52 ways you can do this. Some are simple meditations, like imagining you are a tree with roots. Others are simple things you can do like take a shower or walk barefoot in the grass. Grounding should be done daily and is an excellent way for everybody to bring more calm into their life.
Do you have any other products available that parents and/or educators should look into?
I do have the Ultimate IEP Binder Tool Kit for parents. It has over 40 pages of printable forms and lists to help them organize the mounds of paperwork. I even lay out all the tabs so you just have to buy the same tabs and print them. The number one thing parents need to do is get organized. I charge $4.99 for this download.
Do you have any other books or projects in the works?
Yes. I have a book about alternative therapies to help kids with special ed. I expect that to be published in February 2019. I also have the Bullet Journal for Special Needs Moms coming out this summer.
I am also working on an online course for parents and students on teaching students how to self-advocate. The course is also suppose to launch in August 2018. Teaching kids to self-advocate is a very important chapter in the book, and I am creating a more in-depth training course to help students ask for the support they need. To me this is the most critical life skill for people with disabilities.
And most importantly, how are your sons doing now?
Both my sons are doing very well.
My older son is a freshman in high school. He went into high school with no aide and has flourished. He continues to be an honor student despite taking math, physics and graphic design. The teachers say he has better focus than most of the kids in their classes, which really says something considering 4 years ago he could barely focus for 5 minutes.
My younger son is in 6th grade. He will be graduating from speech at the end of this school year. This only leaves him with writing challenges, but he has improved dramatically this year. They expect him to be in resource language arts for 7th grade, but likely he will be graduated from special education by 8th grade. He is very gifted in math so really our biggest struggle is keeping him challenged enough so he won’t get bored.
Thank you so much for writing this book and for taking the time to answer these questions.
Thank you so much for the interviewing and sharing the book with your readers!
Special Ed Mom Survival Guide
Any mom would be crushed by this dire pessimistic prediction, but Bonnie did not let this UCLA neuropsychologist’s edict determine her son’s fate. Combining relentless determination with research, learning and in-depth discussions with professionals, Bonnie found ways to help him progress from ‘severely abnormal’ to honor roll student.
In the Special Ed Mom Survival Guide, Bonnie leads you through the vital steps necessary to survive as a Special Ed Mom. From learning how to manage the emotional overwhelm, to figuring out how to get the school to say yes, Bonnie presents a roadmap that leads you through this confusing obstacle course. Sharing tried and true methods, Bonnie teaches you to find your own inner compass so you can gain the ability and confidence to make decisions that bring results for your child. Based on personal and professional experience, Bonnie will help you to:
- Create the Right Mindset
- Take Care of Yourself
- Take Care of Your Child
- Understand the Special Ed Process
- Take Charge of the Special Ed Process
“If only I had had a guide to help me navigate all the challenges,” Bonnie says. “Then I could have focused more on my child and less on learning how to get help.” Every Special Ed Mom needs this guide to help make the journey easier!
About Bonnie Landau
Bonnie has spent the better part of 25 years as a graphic designer and artist. Always a lover of psychology and the forces that influence behavior, it was a natural transition for her to begin working to resolve her oldest son’s special education challenges. When he was six, a neuropsychologist said he was beyond help, and to plan for his group home care as an adult. Bonnie could not accept that nothing could be done, and she set on a path to find solutions to help her son. He is now an honor student and destined to live a typical life.
Having been through the special ed system as a mom, and now as a advocate and counselor, she saw the need for support for the parents who carry this challenging burden. She has helped parents who struggle with districts who refused services, and she has coached parents in finding ways help their child succeed against the odds. Bonnie knows the fear a mother feels when her child’s future is uncertain, and that is why she chose to shift her life focus into educational consulting. She has a thriving practice as an educational consultant and advocate for parents who find themselves struggling with the special education journey.
She is the author of Special Ed Mom Survival Guide: How to prevail in the special ed process while discovering life-long strategies for both you and your child. She is also the creator of Grounded for Life: 52 Exercises for Daily Grounding, and co-author of Same Journey, Different Paths: Stories of Auditory Processing Disorder. She has a masters in educational counseling and another in spiritual psychology. Her bachelors degree is in architecture. She lives in Ventura County, California with her husband, two boys and their two furry felines.
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