Caroline, mom to a second-grader who has cerebral palsy, received some surprising news upon dropping her daughter off at school yesterday morning. It’s a new school for her daughter, and she’s the only “new kid” in class. Her daughter wears glasses and uses leg braces to help her walk.
“Parents have started asking the teacher what my daughter has,” wrote Caroline on the Cerebral Palsy Resource Group Facebook page. "I told the teacher that it was OK to tell other parents that she has cerebral palsy but she is just like the other kids… Any other suggestions or just words of support are appreciated.” Within minutes, she had received numerous comments from other group members — and it became clear the conversation was larger than her.
With school back in full swing, many parents of children who have disabilities find themselves in similar situations. Elementary school is often the ideal time to educate kids—and their parents—about your child’s condition. And with bullying a persistent problem regardless of age, being proactive is a great way to nip any negative perceptions in the bud.
- “Show and Tell” with your child’s class. Bring in baby pictures and any special mementos to share. It will help classmates understand his or her condition—and it will also help them see that, in so many ways, he or she is just like they are. Depending on your child’s comfort level, he or she can join your presentation or simply sit and listen.
- Meet with the teacher. Meeting with your child’s teachers before the school year starts is a great way to educate them about your child’s condition, personality, and how he or she prefers to talk about (or, not talk about) their condition.
- Send home a note. A friendly, informal note introducing your child and addressing common “FAQs” is an effective way to reach other parents.
- Read (or write!) a book. Whether done via crayons or via your home computer, a short book telling your child’s story in kid-friendly language will reach other children on their level. For ideas, check out this family’s book. Another great tool is “It’s Okay to Ask,” a new children’s picture book about kids of different abilities.
- Learn from others. Find a community of supporters – whether it’s online or in person – where you can ask questions like Caroline did.