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Being a parent who works full time is challenging. Add in doctor’s appointments, IEP meetings, paperwork (lots and lots of paperwork), and what feels like an endless stream of appointments –it can seem nearly impossible to balance it all.
I’ve been asked by people, “Can’t you just stay home and collect Disability?” Well, perhaps I can, but I don’t want to. I love my children. I love my job. I’ve been with my company for 13 years – I love what I do, and it affords many therapies and interventions that are not covered by medical insurance. For some, working is a necessity to keep a roof over heads and food on the table.
No matter the situation, here are some practical tips to help working parents who have a special needs child:
- Know your company’s sick and personal leave policies and use them appropriately.
- Apply for FMLA. We use FMLA for medical and therapy appointments, or other disability- related needs when they happen during work hours.
- Find support services or a Service Coordinator. This can help secure services like respite and to help support your child and family. My daughter attends an after-school respite program (that is specific to kids with special needs) that runs until 6 pm, allowing me to pick her up after work.
- Talk with your boss. I have been up front about my daughter’s needs, while confirming my commitment to my job.
- Meet deadlines. For me, this sometimes means working at night after the kids have gone to bed, or on Saturdays.
- Be present and proactive. When you’re at work, be fully present and engaged. When you’re going to miss an important meeting, send along information, talking points or relevant material to the organizer.
- Don’t apologize for taking time off. Everyone who takes time off within the company’s policy is entitled to take their time, without apology. Special needs parents are no different.
- Keep a log of accomplishments and how you add value. I make sure to summarize that list in my annual performance evaluations.
- Try to schedule appointments before or after work hours. When that’s not possible, schedule them first thing in the morning, or at the end of the day to avoid mid-day interruptions.
- Ask about your company’s work-from-home policy. If you have a job that you do from an office, you can work from just about anywhere with a laptop and phone. Many companies are looking for ways to increase flexibility and work-life balance for their staff.