2019-08-24 Posted By Jenna Reed-Cote
1 in 20 children have a disability. That gives 19 kids a daily opportunity to learn about diversity, collaboration and inclusion.
1. COMMUNICATION IS KEY!
Parents (if you haven’t already) talk to to the school! Let them know how to support your kid - mind, body & spirit. This is also a great opportunity to make sure you and the school are both on the same page about what your child needs and who's going to provide it. This will also provide clarity on what the school is legally able to do (or not) to support your lil’ one!
2. LIGHTS, CAMERA, UNDERSTANDING!
For many of your munchkins, they are entering a whole new world.
Try making a family video with your child that can be sent to the families of new classmates! In the video you can set the tone and introduce yourselves! Why not do an “equipment show” for the camera (like a fashion show - equipment is getting so stylish these days) so that parents and their kids can get accustomed to how your kid gets around - getting rid of any anxiety!
This can also be a great time to get your little one to talk about all their favourite hobbies/books/music/shows so that people can see that they are like the rest of the kids (and giving them something to bond over on the first day)!
Also, this may end up being a chance for your child’s new classmates to ask their parents the more “blunt” questions. This paves the way for more important conversations when they actually meet like, "What did you get for lunch? Wanna trade?"
3. PRACTICE MAKES CONFIDENCE!
Speaking of questions - you know your munchkin is more than their health challenges - help give them the tools and the confidence to make sure others see. their potential, too!
Who remembers Show & Tells from back in the day? Well, let’s think about using that model to help your kid feel the confidence and start educating others! What do you think about setting up a Mock Show & Tell at home, with an amazing audience of supportive friends and families? Let your little one know this is their time to shine, show (and tell) others what they want them to know about them! Explain so many kids have challenges that are obvious to others, while others deal with them “invisibly”. The best way we can find what connects us is by sharing and being our authentic self!
This isn’t about teaching them that everyone is entitled to all the details of their life. However, it is an opportunity to educate on the things they are willing to share. In fact, you might be surprised at how much your child is willing to share (even in detailed medical terminology)! Or, you might see that they might not know how to explain what their challenges and strengths mean to them. Either way, it’s great to get a sense for how your kid engages with others and maybe tailor those instincts to help them be more approachable to their peers.
Ultimately, you know your child better than anyone and what is going to help empower them in the long run. Some of you might want to use this opportunity to gently prepare them for the questions they might be getting from their peers. These questions may surprise your child, who has just been just another member of your family and not have had to deal with probing questions until this point. However, instead of having them feel like this is just something they have to develop a thick skin about, you can talk to them about where some of these questions may be coming from - a lack of education.
4. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN!
Parents, take a look at the school year’s calendar as far in advance. Hopefully you'll find the days to make those appointments so that little school/extra-curriculars are missed. Don’t forget to also touch base with teachers when there may be an extended leave (recovery etc.) as it may be an opportunity to discuss the absence with the class. Why? Because it allows them to ask the teacher questions so that your kid isn’t bombarded when they get back. It can also be an opportunity to help the class come up with ways to show support (making a get-well card or a “we miss you” video). This keeps the bonds stronger and helps to eliminate isolation when your child comes back!
(Is scheduling appointments, procedures or surgery on school holidays or Pro-D days ideal? NOPE! I didn’t appreciate it, and hopefully a new system can be determined - I think we are all open to hearing suggestions!)
5. WHO HAS THEIR BACK?
Problems come up at school that your kid has had your help with up until this point (they may not have even been aware of some problems they've actually faced because you’ve been able to shield them from them). However, it’s very important to make sure they know who they can talk to when something comes up that they feel in their gut isn’t right. It could be an interaction with a peer, health challenges, ability to participate etc. The last thing any of us want is for them to keep these challenges to themselves, but reach out to learn how to problem-solve or get appropriate support. See if their teacher is willing to meet with your little one before school starts so they know they have an ally on Day 1!
Accidents happen… Make sure your kid has extra everything. This can be given to the teacher for safe-keeping and discretion!