Welcome to the book tour for Special Ed Mom Survival Guide by Bonnie Landau. This is a cause that is very near and dear to my heart, so when presented with the opportunity to review the book, I jumped on it. Please read on for more information about Bonnie and the book, as well as my thoughts and opinions. While I did receive a complimentary copy of the book, I was not influenced by this as I was crafting my review.
Also note that affiliate links are present within this post. Should you make a purchase through one, I may earn a small commission to help support my websites at no additional cost to you.
Special Ed Mom Survival Guide“Your son’s brain function is severely abnormal. I would recommend you begin saving for his group home care as an adult.”
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
I have to preface this review by saying that I spent 20 years working as an educator in Montessori schools. When starting my career, I only had maybe one child a year who required an IEP or other special considerations. The year that I left, over 3/4 of my class was on an IEP, even though I had a "typical" classroom and not a special ed classroom. My background is early childhood education, though I did pursue coursework as a special ed minor, plus have done a lot of independent study over the years. Though I am no longer in the classroom, I continue to work with the special needs community via private respite care. I also have numerous friends who are Special Ed Moms and Dads. So as I was reading through this book, I was looking at all of it with sort of both hats on.
When I started reading, my gut instinct was to bristle at the revelation that Bonnie's son was failed so much by professionals in the field. These ranged from professionals working on diagnoses (or actually failing to consider diagnoses) to numerous failures on the part of the schools as well. I get angry when I hear how professionals are not your friend in the special ed world. But I also have to remember to not take it personally. I think I am one of those few people who actually took on each case individually and fought for each child's individual needs. Part of that was from my background as a Montessori child and educator. Part of that is from my personality. And then I remember the people that I worked with and against over the years. Unfortunately, there is a large part of the population who doesn't understand special needs. There is also a lot of bureaucracy going on in that world that prevents people from giving all of the assistance that they would like to give if they could, but their hands are tied. Because I taught at a private school, I often had to visit numerous districts in one school year as I reported to the IEP meetings for my various students. I saw a lot of differences between all of them. I even got to the point with one chair who made a comment that she appreciated how I fought for the kids and how she hated how her hands were so tied.
I say all of this because Bonnie does throw an awful lot of information in your direction. She shares the good, the bad, and the ugly of navigating the special ed process in the schools. While the beginning of the book does feel like it is coming after the professionals a bit, I really appreciated how in the later chapters, she explains how and why a lot of the schools approach it differently, based on district or individual behavior. She delineates some of the challenges that teachers face that make it difficult to always do the right thing, but also clearly explains when a teacher is simply not being compliant. She does the same for individual schools as well as districts.
There is a lot of technical jargon that goes on in these meetings. I remember often apologizing to parents before writing up an evaluation or going into a meeting, saying that the words they were going to hear may seem harsh. But if you don't use the right words, you can't trigger certain services. I also apologized to them for how it would seem like we were only going to focus on the negatives with the child. But we, as the invested teacher and the parents, knew all of those positives and would continue to embrace them. Bonnie really gets into this, as well as clear explanations of all of that jargon, the programs, and the various pieces of legislation that enter into the special ed world. It's hard to learn all of these. Even as an educator, one has to go back and review them frequently.
The beginning of the book does focus a lot on self care of the special ed parent. While the book is mainly focused on the mom, as she is the one who inevitably bears most of the burden, there is a section for dads, written by a Special Ed Dad. Moms and dads do approach the family differently, but both can benefit from reading through the self care tips and advice on how to navigate other family members and friends and finding support within the community.
I have numerous friends from my work in this field who definitely struggle in the self care realm. So many techniques are provided in here, as well as numerous links for more support and information. I think this is paramount to being a Special Ed Mom. As Eddie Vedder once said in an interview, "You can't save someone from drowning if you're barely treading water yourself." It's so important to figure out which techniques work best for you.
Another great aspect of this book is the pensive questions that are at the end of each chapter. She also includes a few quizzes to help you figure out where you stand in some situations or in some aspects of your own personality, and then gives you tips to work with that. For these sections, I would love to see an accompanying workbook or journal. I also recommend that parents who purchase this book get the paperback copy, so that they can quickly flip back and forth as needed and can make appropriate notes in the margins. Get it on Kindle so that you can take it with you to read while waiting in line or something, but then also take advantage of writing out thoughts.
This is not an easy book to get through quickly. You're not going to sit down and digest this information in a quick afternoon. You may have to take it one chapter a day or even one chapter a week, and slowly make your way through it. Pick and choose the sections that you need right now. If you're getting ready to go into IEP meetings, focus on that area first. If you're in that more down time, focus on the self care. But be sure to go through the whole thing.
I also want educators and other professionals to read this book. I took note of some rules that I know districts and even my own school had tried to dance around. I knew an awful lot while I was working in the schools and had wonderful resources at my disposal. But even then, it's possible to forget bits and pieces. I also think it is important for professionals to read about the parent's point-of-view when it comes to the overwhelming task of accepting the diagnosis of your child and figuring out how you are going to work with the child. I think it will help you to be even more sympathetic as you are working with these families.
About Bonnie LandauBonnie 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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