Special Needs Help: An Employee's Story

special needs help programs from employers

The following post was written by Nancy Burlingame, Vice President, Client Relations at Bright Horizons.

I recently came across an interesting resource on the web entitled, the Special Needs Calendar.

It was subtitled "A year of awareness" and detailed numerous days throughout the year recognizing special needs challenges, from autism to developmental disabilities.

For many of us, these are more than just events on a calendar.

Day-to-Day Struggles for Employees

In my day-to-day work with clients, I'm hearing more and more about how hard it is for working families to find and access the right services and resources for children with special needs. Left on their own, it's a difficult road.

This is something I can speak to personally. When my youngest son was 4, he had a serious accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). When he entered kindergarten, struggles with school led us through a long process to determine whether he had other issues.

I didn't know anyone in my situation... and didn't really want to share all of David's challenges with friends. As a result, I was left to do a lot of research on my own.

An All-Consuming Process

David was eventually diagnosed with ADHD along with the TBI. With the help of teachers and administration, we made it through elementary and middle school without the implementation of an Individual Education Plan (IEP).

But in high school, everything changed. Teachers began to remove David from class every time he spoke out of turn and put him in ISS (In-School Suspension). It got to the point where over the course of a single month, he spent roughly 12 days in a classroom without instruction. The time had come for an IEP.

People who've gone through this - the search for special-needs help will tell you that advocating for your child in this capacity is an exhaustive, all-consuming process. If you don't know the state education system, it becomes close to impossible to find what you need.

An Employer-Sponsored Road Map

The Special Needs Program (the benefit offered by Bright Horizons) helped me get my son set up. The information placed at my fingertips by the benefit's MyEdGPS platform not only allowed me to get David what he needed, it also guided me on how to speak to the school district with confidence and expertise.

These kinds of resources aren't just for children with diagnosed special needs. Anytime a child is struggling is cause for parental angst. So when talking about special needs, we're also making sure we're supporting employees whose child may not have a diagnosis of a specific issue, but who may be struggling with a few behaviors.

David now has a teacher in the room who can help keep him on track. He's also allowed additional time to take tests and can choose his seat in each classroom based on where he (and the teacher) feels he will be most successful.

Finally, he's been allowed to enter a credit recovery program so that he can catch up on the work he missed during that difficult month.

Why An Employer's Help Matters

Almost a year later, I'm thrilled to report that David has increased his GPA by seven points and is so much happier than he was at this time last year.

For me, this was a benefits success story. And I became an illustration of why these supports matter. It's true, myEdGPS solved a very specific problem. But the benefits went beyond special needs help. I can tell you that knowing I had my company behind me had even further-reaching effects. It also helped me - my whole family, in fact  bounce back a lot more quickly than I might have.