When Elizabeth was little, we found out she has dyspraxia and sensory processing issues. Dyspraxia affects her motor skills and her ability to plan and do tasks. Sensory processing issues affect how she responds to sensory input, like touch and sound. Both conditions affect her life each and every day.
I’ve been thinking back on the teachers who’ve taught her in general education classrooms. Many have been amazing and wonderful. A few have not.
But I try to focus on her best teachers—what they did for her, the attitudes they had and how they touched Elizabeth’s life. With this in mind, there are five things I want teachers to know about her.
1. She knows when you value her.
The teachers who made the most positive impact for Elizabeth were the ones who welcomed her into their classrooms. They recognized that Elizabeth wanted to be there. They saw her as a child who could make a real contribution to the class.
A critical question I’d ask general education teachers to consider is: “Do you see the inclusion student as an asset to the classroom, or as an obligation?” Because kids are smart. They can feel a teacher’s attitude toward them, be it good or bad.
2. She needs you to read her IEP.
The point is that the IEP is a wonderful tool that speaks for my child. It’s a road map for how to include Elizabeth in a class. It can make things easier for everyone. But you have to read it for it to be useful.
3. But she’s more than just her IEP.
While the IEP is important, Elizabeth is also more than just a piece of paper. She’s a human being with likes, dislikes and hobbies. She’s a complex, wonderful person. To see her as just a special education or inclusion student is to gloss over her gifts.
For instance, not many people know that Elizabeth absolutely loves cooking with me. Or that shopping and getting a frozen yogurt is a favorite outing of hers. Or that she totally hates sharing the television with her video game-loving little brother.
If you take the time to ask her about herself, I guarantee you’ll be surprised and delighted by the answers.
4. She didn’t choose to have these issues.
Elizabeth didn’t choose her learning differences, she was born with them. When you see her in your class and she seems different from her peers, remember that this is who she is. When she talks too loud or misses some social cue, she’s not doing it on purpose.
So please don’t let what can seem like acting up keep you from believing in her. When she wants to participate, buddy up with a peer or be more a part of the class, give her a chance.
5. She wins when we communicate.
We need to know the good stuff, and the bad. Tell us if there was a positive breakthrough or a new challenge. And if there was a meltdown, I bet we can help you figure out why it happened. I’ll tell you as much as you want to know.
These are things that I wish all general education teachers knew. But I can only say this because my daughter has had great teachers who made these things happen.
Like every parent, I want my daughter to succeed and to have a fair shot like other kids. So to those teachers who smile, encourage and believe in our children, please know that the difference you make is absolutely priceless. Thank you.
Want to read more from this author? Read the six things she wishes people knew about parenting a child with dyspraxia.
You can also explore sentence starters to use with teachers. Get tips on how to improve your relationship with your child’s teacher. And download a 3×3 card for sharing your child’s strengths and weaknesses with teachers.
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