Many times parents struggle with what to share with the pre-school about their child with learning or behavior challenges. Parents do not want them ostracized by other children and teachers. They hope their child will catch up or that the behavior will disappear. I believe that there is a careful way to develop a middle ground.
Parents often become experts on their child’s disability. Through their own learning process, many see the value of teaching their child’s classmates and teachers about the effect of the disability at school.
Telling others about a learning or behavior difference can be tricky. However, telling classmates about your child’s disability may foster acceptance. Parents and professionals find that if classmates understand a child’s disability, they may become allies in helping the child. The children may also be less likely to view accommodations or individual support as unfair advantages. One of the best ways to teach children about a disability is to talk to them at school. According to PACER, talking about differences is an opportunity to discuss why a child may look or behave differently from other children in the class, point out the many ways in which the child is like classmates, and offer classmates tips for interacting with the child.
As a former administrator, I can tell you that schools can better prepare for your child if they have a good idea about the concerns and the extra supports that may be needed to help the children thrive. Be direct and factual with the administrators about what considerations may be necessary to support your child. Be open to listening to the administrator’s concerns. Be ready to address different and creative programming solutions. Don’t be afraid to revisit the issue.
Success is often celebrated. “I found that children and teachers rose to the occasion when they understood the reasons for my son’s challenges,” said one mother. “When there’s an obvious difference and no one is talking about it, others become confused and think there must be something ‘bad’ about it. When children and staff understood that the disability was not bad, but just different, many were eager to help him.”