How to Balance Teacher-Nurse Collaboration in Special Education

No matter how much you love your child, the fact of the matter is that having a child with special needs often proves challenging. There are a lot of things to take into consideration to ensure your child is receiving the utmost quality care regarding their health, education, and social, emotional, and physical development

When it comes to bringing your child into a classroom environment, many factors are dependent on the severity of your child’s disability. If he or she has limited motor control or a fragile immune system, they might not only require specialized academic instruction, but also a licensed healthcare professional who can attend to their medical needs on a daily basis.

If this is the case, managing an open and product collaboration of the teacher and the nurse is crucial. Both provide essential services, but is there a line drawn between the services that each provides? In other words, should a nurse also cater to academic needs and should a teacher also cater to physical needs?

Here is a look at how to successfully balance the collaboration between a special education teacher and a nurse so that your child can gain the most benefits possible.

Discuss the Needs: In order to ensure your child receives the appropriate services and treatment from both the teacher and the nurse, you are going to have to discuss the individual needs of your child with each person. Make sure that both the teacher and the nurse are well aware of your child’s mental and physical capabilities so that they can provide the right services.

Clearly Define Roles: While yes, it is acceptable for a teacher to provide physical support when she can and for a nurse to provide academic support when she can, it is important that their individual roles are clearly defined. For example, the teacher should know exactly what it is that she should be focusing on, and the same can be said for the nurse. While a teacher may be able to provide physical support, she may not know how to properly work with the equipment or provide medical support properly – and vice versa regarding a nurse.

Establish a Team Atmosphere: Regardless what type of expert services each of these individuals provide, they should both be working together in order to provide the best experience possible for your child. They should think of themselves as a team that is working together for the betterment of your child. While certainly, one person is trained and licensed to provide services in one particular area, ultimately, they should be working together to provide your child with the proper services. When a teacher and a nurse work together in the special education setting, your child reaps the most benefits possible.

A teacher and a nurse need to work together, yet understand their distinct roles when servicing a special needs child. Likewise, you, the parent, need to take an active role in ensuring the effective collaboration of your child’s special education teacher and nurse because it is your child who their individual services are benefitting.

Special Education – We Can Do Better

As the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s infamous “I have a dream” speech has received a lot of news coverage it got me thinking about another very important area of civil rights… special education.

Until recently (last 30 years) our government completely failed to protect children with disabilities and to mandate that they too be educated with a quality and meaningful education. Prior to the 1970’s public schools did not address the needs of all learners. Congress found that roughly 2 million children were receiving no education or very little education which eventually resulted in the passage and enactment of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (EHA).

For the first time children with disabilities had a legal right to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). This included the development of individual education programs (IEP) and provided federal funding to assist states in the expense of educating all students regardless of their disabilities.

Over the years the EHA has been expanded and reauthorized eventually becoming known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). While we have come a long way in our journey to protect the educational rights of all children it is frustrating to see school districts spend so much of their precious resources fighting against families and government regulations that protect students.

Having had the opportunity to visit schools around the world including refugee camps, where make shift schools house hundreds of kids with just a few teachers and little to no resources for children with disabilities, I really do appreciate the progress we have made in the US. But it also reminds me that there are only three things schools need to be successful: 1) willing students; 2) teachers that care; and 3) involved parents. That is it. You don’t need bloated administrations and inflated salaries. All you need are parents, students, and teachers working in conjunction with each other.

It is frustrating that so many school districts focus on the success of their high students as a reflection of the quality of their school. I believe success should be measured by the amount of growth each student makes regardless of how that compares with their peers. If school districts focused on meeting all of a student’s learning needs and worked collaboratively with families and other professionals to identify each area of concern, student growth would inevitably increase.

The only reason we have to enact laws mandating the education of all students is because public school districts failed to reach all learners. And even today, with all of the recently enacted legislation school districts still struggle to understand that all students are important and valuable members of our society.

Unfortunately, many special education administrators have forgotten the whole purpose behind the enactment of special education laws. As a result, they too often focus on doing the minimal amount possible instead of addressing all of a student’s unique needs. A clear example of this is students who remain year after year in a resource program with little to no progress. Instead of trying to understand why a particular student is not making progress and develop a specific program designed to meet their individual needs school districts will leave students in the same failed program. Why? Because that is what they have available and the law doesn’t necessarily require them to provide more. Yet, if your job is to reach all learners schools should be compelled to adjust their programs accordingly. But this is not the case. School districts too often offer limited services resulting in student failure instead of success. Herein is the problem and the reason why we still have so far to go with special education.

It really comes down to understanding one’s purpose as an organization. A public school’s sole purpose is to educate students. The quality of that education depends on many factors. The US Supreme Court has determined that public schools do not have to maximize a student’s potential they only have to provide them a basic floor of opportunity. But, this doesn’t mean schools can’t go above and beyond this requirement.

I know many teachers who work into the night and on weekends to better prepare themselves for the benefit of their students. They do not have to put in the extra work, but they strive for excellence. Similarly, special education departments should want to be the best they can which requires going above and beyond the minimal requirements of the law. But this is rarely the case.

For example, when parents bring in outside assessments to share with their child’s IEP team, too many times schools dismiss the new information. Outside assessments are second opinions of what a student needs and as such are very important. The IEP team should be thankful for the additional information as it can be used to develop an appropriate program for the student. However, I have seen many districts complain about the length of outside assessments or that certain assessors discuss findings outside of their area of expertise. Instead of focusing on the new data and how it can be used to benefit the student, school districts often take a defensive posture as if you are attacking them and their findings.

The courts have held that the fundamental purpose of the Education Code is the welfare of the students. In California the special education portion of the Education Code is intended to ensure that all individuals with exceptional needs are provided their rights to appropriate programs and services which are designed to meet their unique needs under the IDEA.

For this to occur, school districts must not feel threatened by independent assessments. In fact they should welcome the additional information and appreciate lengthy and detailed reports on what the needs of the student are.

If I was an educator I would want all the information possible on a student’s deficit areas so I could fully understand their learning needs and develop an individualized program specific to that student. Can you imagine going to a medical doctor with a second opinion and being told that the report contains too much information? Well that is exactly what many school districts are doing.

In conclusion, while our special education laws have provided great protection for students with disabilities we still have a long way to go to get school districts to understand the purpose behind such legislation. It is my hope to continue to work collaboratively with school districts and help them understand that the law is just a starting point and not the end. That is, schools can provide above and beyond what the law requires. Special education laws only require mediocrity; however, I believe our public schools should strive for much more…. not because they have to, but because they want to.

What to Look for in a Special Education Aide

There are specific qualities that are inherent to all teachers, but this is particularly true of those  individuals who work with children with special needs. The classroom environment can be a challenging and crucial experience for your child, which means that finding the right person – the right aide – to work alongside your child is extremely important.

Depending on the needs of your child, he or she will either be assigned a one-to-one aide, or will work with an aide in a small group of classmates. In either case, the aide will work very closely with him or her, not only providing academic support, but social and emotional support as well.


Are you looking for an aide for your child? Here are some traits that indicate a good fit for your child:

Accepting: Your child’s aide should, above everything else, be accepting of your child. She should not judge, shun or otherwise make ill assumptions about your child’s capabilities. She should be accepting of your child on all levels and treat him as she would treat any other individual – of course, if she offers a little more love and support, that is always a good thing.

Understanding: This trait goes along with accepting, but it should be mentioned, just the same. A special education aide should understand that your child does have special needs and she should understand the limitations that those needs may present. However, she should not exclude him from activities or make excuses because of his needs. Instead, she should be aware of his capabilities and push your child to reach achieve what he is capable of, without going too far, of course.

Organized: No matter what the educational setting is, organization is essential; especially when working with special needs students. Your child’s aide will need to be aware of the specialized individualized education plans (IEPs) that your child may have, as well as any other particular needs/requirements he or she may have. Being organized will allow the aide to easily provide for the specific needs of your child.

Level Headed: Level headedness is vital for effectively working with the special education population. Children who have academic or emotional disabilities can easily lose their patience and overreact to certain situations. An aide needs to be able to remain calm and provide appropriate and consistent support at all times.


Highly Dedicated: All children need to have a firm foundation in order to feel comfortable, especially special needs children. Your child’s aide should be highly dedicated to him and willing to not only provide above adequate services, but should also be willing to get to know your child on a personal level. An aide who is consistently absent and who is detached will not make a connection with your child and will not provide the firm foundation that he needs.

Your child’s aide is an integral part of his success, not only academically, but mentally, emotionally and socially. An aide with the above-mentioned qualities will help to guide your child in the right direction.

Finding Grants for Disabled Children

From food to healthcare and from medical to academic needs, the cost of raising a child can be quite cumbersome. When you add to those traditional costs of raising a child the additional expenses that come along with raising a special needs child – extra medical bills, visits with specialists, specialized treatments – you may be facing some pretty astronomical financial obligations.

Certainly you want to provide your child with the best, but in these economic times, it can be quite difficult to find the funding to provide your special needs child with the best care and resources possible. Fortunately, however, there is some relief for special needs parents – in the form of grants. Yes, grants.

The United States government has grown to understand the added financial demands that come along with raising a special needs child. As such, they have created specialized grants in order to help with this financial strain. There are also several non-profit organizations that exist for the betterment of the special needs population. These organizations have also created several grant options in order to relieve economic hardships so that those with special needs can receive the utmost care.

Finding Grants

If you are the parent of a special needs child, you may be wondering about how you can find these specialized grants. The truth is, finding such grants are actually not as difficult as you may think. Your computer is a valuable resource in your search. Simply type in the kind of grant you are interested in finding information about, or enter “special education grants” into your search engine. .Gov and .edu sites will be the best place to begin your search.

If this option seems too daunting to you, consider contacting a special education advisor or advocate in order to find out what types of grants are available for your child’s needs. Your child’s guidance counselor is one option, as is his or her doctor or mental health care provider. These professional advisors are well-versed in the special needs sector and will likely know in which direction to point you so that you can find grants for your child.

Types of Grants and Qualifications

There are several types of grants available for special needs children. They range from funding for academic advancement to moneys for your child’s medical care. In order to determine whether or not your child is eligible to receive a specific type of grant, you will first want to take into consideration your child’s specific situation. However, this is not enough to determine qualification; you will also have to fill out detailed documents, which will indicate your child’s needs. Those documents will be assessed, as will your needs for receiving such grants and based on the findings of the granting organization, it will be determined whether or not your child is eligible.

While it can certainly be discouraging to learn how costly providing proper education and health care for your special needs child is, don’t assume that he or she will simply have to go without; know that there are grants available that you could very well qualify for in order to ease your financial burdens.