When I was a one-on-one aide I became BEST FRIENDS with the student I worked with, Danny. He loves to dance, he has the best smile in the world, and he is very medically fragile, has a learning disability, and is deaf-blind. Unfortunately, those are just a few of the many things that Danny's family deals with every second of every day.
There are many inspirational poems and stories that try to put this situation in a positive light, but what people don't always talk about is how hard it can be. When people first decide to have a child, they start picturing a future for this child. They imagine their unborn child making friends, dating, driving a car, graduating, and moving out, but that is not always the case. Some, if not most, students I have worked with in a classroom have trouble walking without falling, aren't potty trained, and go through the majority of their school career having teachers and speech therapists figure out a successful way to get the student to communicate "help" or "I'm hungry."
What I am trying to get to is that there is a huge difference between parents and teachers. Parents did not choose to have a child with a (dis)ability. General and Special Education teachers went to school to learn how to modify the curriculum for all students and how to help them successfully complete school and be apart of their community. What some teachers forget, or may not know, is that they are also the teacher for the parents.
Most parents who unexpectedly have a child with a (dis)ability don't rush to a special education program. A lot of them (but probably not all) grieve. They are saying goodbye to the child they created in their head and got something even better.
They got a child that is going to teach them how to describe differences to the random little boy in the store saying "why does that kid look like an alien?" They got a child that is going to test their limits and patience during the time of day where they just want to pee for 2 seconds (while e-mailing teachers and the district and organizing therapy appointments up the ying yang). They got a child that has a personalized (legally binding) lesson plan that gets updated annually for possibly the rest of their educational journey.
So here are a few things I tell all of the parents I work with.
This book. It's about a child with Autism, but I swear, it can work for most (dis)abilities. It's a very short read and SO WORTH IT!
David Brown, a brilliant man who knows everything about children who think differently, has the technique to "follow the child." If a child doesn't want to sit at the place you want them to sit at, follow them. Do they want a toy? A snack? Bring the toy back to their seat or tell them "sit first, then snack."
Age-Appropriateness is important for ALL students. Just because your child learns differently, doesn't mean they should be allowed to run into a public bathroom and scream and be disrespectful to others in there. Teach them. Everyone can be taught.
Total Communication. Give your child images to communicate, let them physically show you, or learn American Sign Language (Signing Time is my personal favorite children's DVD set on how to learn Sign Language).
I love communicating with parents because they are the true key to unlocking the mystery behind each student. They are with this child the most. Danny's parents and I can talk for hours about their child and Special Education laws and districts being frustrating, but we all have the same goal for this child. We want them to be happy, successful, and apart of their community.
So next time you hear someone complaining about a parent always being late, not sending the best lunches, or forgetting to sign the permission form in their child's backpack, keep in mind that you don't know what they are going through at home and they are trying their best.
Inclusion Starts Now :)
Side Note: I will discuss (dis)ability soon