Category: Special Needs Parenting

Frequently Asked Questions


Q: I’m not sure if I should try to get a 504 plan or an IEP for my child. Help!

A: This is a common situation – you’re not alone! Right now, we aren’t able to advise you on this decision. Soon, we will add in content to our parent support tool that can help you think through the pros and cons of each option.

Q: My child’s teachers are really great, but I don’t think they quite understand my child. How can I help them understand?

A: You are not alone. Despite teachers’ best efforts, parents often wonder if their child is truly known and understood at school. Our parent support tool helps address this problem by bridging communication gaps between you and your child’s school. We make it easier to know what to say and how to say it – all for the benefit of your child.

Q: I like the look of your tool, but my child’s exceptionality is not supported by it. Are you adding new exceptionalities?

A:Yes we are! Look for many more exceptionalities to be supported starting in Fall 2017. Sign up here to get ExceptionALLY updates.

Q: Why do you use the word “exceptionality” instead of “disability?”

A: The word “disability” carries a lot of negativity with it. Yes, children with disabilities do have some limits that their typically developing peers do not. But “disability” doesn’t honor the unique and amazing strengths that special children have!

We prefer the term “exceptionality” because we see children with special needs as exceptional, not disabled. They have exceptional abilities – for better and for worse. They deserve to be fully known for everything that makes them who they are, not just for one aspect of their development.

Q: My local district and state are really tough when it comes to special ed. Do you take this into account?

A: The many differences between states, districts and even schools are a big part of what makes special education so complicated. As we grow, we will continue to add more and more content specific to local situations. Currently, our parent support tool relies on information that applies to all children under IDEA.

Q: I’ve got a really terrible IEP situation at my child’s school. What should I do next?

A: If your child is ever in physical or emotional danger, we encourage you to reach out to a special education advocate or attorney in your area. As we grow, we will aim to support every family – no matter how severe their situation is. Right now, we aren’t yet able to give personal advice on extreme situations (such as those that would lead to impartial hearings/due process scenarios).

Q: I often feel alone, powerless and vulnerable in my child’s IEP meetings. What can you do to help me?

A: Our mission to help parents like you feel powerful and knowledgeable in the special education process. Everything we design is created to serve this mission. Right now, our parent tool helps you know what to say and how to say it. We’ll help you “speak the school’s language” and raise your voice to become the champion your child needs.

Q: My children attend an independent school, but I’m still concerned about whether they are getting the right supports. Can you help me, or this only for children in public school?

A: Our parent support tool can help any parent trying to communicate their child’s goals and needs to an educator or caretaker. While many, many parents struggle within the IEP process at traditional public schools, parents in charter and private schools also struggle to help their children succeed.

We’re here to support all parents raising children with special needs.

Q: My child has a lot of supports outside of school – therapists, tutors, even babysitters. Can you help me communicate with these professionals, too?

A: Yes! The Exceptionality Action Plan helps you communicate with anyone who supports your child. Why leave anything to chance? Your unique child depends on you to share their needs with the world, and we’ll help you do that.

ExceptionALLY Testimonials

At ExceptionALLY, we love talking to parents of children with unique needs. Seriously, we can’t get enough. Parent conversations keep us connected to the families we support. This connection is essential to our mission.

In the last few months since we’ve launched our support tool (geared toward parents raising children with Autism Spectrum Disorder), we’ve had a lot of these conversations! We’ve received lots of helpful feedback and several encouraging remarks as well. Here are a few testimonials from parents, educators and supporters.


“This tool is wonderful. I like the way it’s broken down – very understandable for parents, staff and teachers.” – mother of a 14-year-old son with ASD

“Excellent concept… I’ve not seen anything like this out there anywhere else.” – special education lawyer

“This tool gives the parent a voice. Otherwise, you’re relying on the schools, and they’re trying to individualize the plans, but they don’t know your kid like you do.” – father of a 5 year old son with ASD

“Brilliant. This tool is so smart. Is it available in Spanish, too?” – special educator in Colorado

“I would love to see this expanded for students with SLD.” – former elementary school principal

“This tool completely turned around the tone of the IEP meeting.” – grandmother to a 8 year old boy with ASD


We love to hear how our tool is helping families, and we’re not done yet! We won’t stop until all parents have the knowledge and know-how they need to help their exceptional kids thrive.



ExceptionALLY Wins Competitive Grant to Support Special Education


We are proud to announce that ExceptionALLY is one of 15 ed tech companies awarded funding through the NewSchools Ignite Special Education Challenge. This grant helps us continue the work of developing impactful support tools for parents of children with special needs.

At ExceptionALLY, we help parents navigate the complex world of special education in order to give their children a quality education. Our first parent solution gives parents a more informed position in the IEP process, and thus, improves collaboration and communication. Here are comments from our customers:

“This tool gives the parent a voice.”

[The school team was] speaking in a lingo I don’t fully understand. With ExceptionALLY, I was able to interject.

I am…emailing the [ExceptionALLY report]…to the principal.

“While it may sound obvious that students with disabilities need additional support, few ed tech tools exist to support this diverse group of students,” said Tonika Cheek Clayton, Managing Partner at NewSchools Venture Fund. “We believe ed tech tools have the potential to address many critical needs in special education. That’s why NewSchools Ignite is proud to invest in ExceptionALLY to develop engaging tools to reimagine special education learning.”

NewSchools makes grants – through NewSchools Ignite – to support ed tech innovation and to mobilize companies who can tackle the biggest problems in education today.

ExceptionALLY is one of 15 ed tech innovations that received grants through the NewSchools Ignite Special Education Challenge. Other grant winners are:

  • BeeLine Reader
  • Branching Minds
  • Education Modified
  • Enuma
  • ExceptionALLY
  • Goalbook
  • InnovateEDU
  • iTherapy
  • Kinems
  • LiftEd
  • Nearpod
  • PhET
  • Timocco
  • VocaliD
  • Zyrobotics

NewSchools Venture Fund is a national nonprofit that finds, funds and supports promising and innovative education entrepreneurs, teams of educators and education leaders. We couldn’t be more excited to work with such a supportive and amazing organization.

How to Find a Special Education Advocate

You don’t have to face your child’s IEP team alone.

Many parents understand the purpose of a lawyer in the IEP process. If your rights have been violated, and you’re pursuing legal action or a due process hearing, you’re wise to call an attorney.

But what if you’re not sure whether you need legal action? What if you’d like to pursue all other solutions before heading down that path? Or if you’d just like an expert second opinion on your child’s IEP? A non-legal advocate may be the right choice.

An advocate is expert in the laws and policies that concern your child’s education. They also know a lot about different exceptionalities and the learning challenges children like yours face in school.

In this article, the experts at Wrightslaw give advice about how to find an advocate. Here are some other tips to consider.

  • Make use of online directories to locate advocates in your state. Wrightslaw has the Yellow Pages for Kids, and COPAA (the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates) has its own resource list.
  • Don’t be afraid to Google. Some advocates aren’t listed on the directories above.
  • Ask around. Other parents in your area or district may have a great recommendation, and several advocates don’t have websites; they rely on word-of-mouth to meet new families.
  • Call them up. Most advocates will give families a free phone consultation. This lets everyone get to know each other for a bit before moving forward.
  • Ask a lot of questions. Not all advocates have the expertise you need, so don’t be bashful. Ask about their backgrounds, their training, their experience, and which exceptionalities they know best.
  • Look for a collaborative spirit. It’s not always possible, but the best advocates try hard to find common ground and get what’s best for your child through collaborating with the full IEP team.

What other tips do you have about finding and working with great advocates? Let us know in the comments.


Taking Time for Yourself: Dream or Reality?

At ExceptionALLY, our mission is to offer meaningful support to parents of exceptional children. We spoke with hundreds of parents to learn what it’s like to raise their children with special needs. Every child is unique, and so is every family, but some consistent themes came out of our conversations.

A few consistent truths:

  • It’s easy to feel isolated and alone.
  • The burden is on the entire family, and there’s no end in sight.
  • Raising a child with special needs is usually utterly exhausting.

This article from Autism Parents Magazine gives six ideas for reducing stress and gaining clarity. Their suggestions (such as taking a walk or reading a book) sound like great pieces of advice for any busy parent, let alone a parent who’s balancing the needs of a child on the autism spectrum.

But I have to wonder – are steps like these enough to make a dent in the everyday stress of an autism parent? Can 30 minute powernaps chip away at the endless fatigue? And what about the parents who can’t find time for even these simple actions due to the many demands on their time?

Many parents we spoke with were doing all they could just to keep their heads above water. A 30-minute solo walk is an indulgence they can’t afford thanks to work schedules, lack of child care and other conflicting needs. They’d love to practice self-care but simply can’t due to lack of support, finances and time.

Like so many aspects of special needs parenting, this topic leaves me wishing I had a magic wand, one that could offer rest, respite and rejuvenation.

For all the moms, dads and caregivers out there needing a little magic, your struggles are real, and you are not invisible.

Do you have a self-care strategy (magic wand not necessary) to share with fellow parents? Share it in the comments.