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Educating Resistant Teachers About Special Needs

Educating Resistant Teachers About Special Needs

Your special needs kid wiggles in his chair at school and often stares off into space, leading his teacher to the assumption that he's not paying attention. Or even worse, the teacher begins to consider him to be a behavior problem just waiting to happen.

Trouble is your kiddo actually has one (or possibly even more than one) of the many and varied cognitive disabilities that express themselves highly uniquely in each child, and that still baffle some in the educational community. And now you, the parent, are having trouble convincing his teacher to provide a modified approach in the classroom. Or perhaps you have presented said teacher with plenty of documentation, and the teacher dutifully nodded and said, "thank you," but a lack of adjustment in the classroom has proved that actions truly do speak louder than words.

"I have found that your child's success in school depends entirely on the type of teacher that they have," posts Tammy N. in the Moms of Kids With ADHD community. "The teacher has the ability to make or break your experience."

But what can you do when there appears to be more breaking than making occurring?

The first step is talking. Yes, talking — even though having a pleasant conversation with said difficult teacher is probably the last thing you really want to do.

"Communication with the teachers and staff is so important," writes Shelly N., also a member of the Moms of Kids With ADHD community. She has two boys who've been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. "I kill them (the teachers) with kindness, offer names of books for them to read, and send them links to sites with helpful info."

A first bridge-builder is to give the teacher the benefit of the doubt. They aren't necessarily "experts" on every disability. As Shelly N. cautions, "do not assume that teachers, because they are teachers, know how to deal with and help these kids. They get a blip of concentrated instruction in this area."

Lanny H. suggests tactfully sharing some tips that you already know will work with your child: "Come up with some acceptable methods to help," she says in the Moms of Kids With ADHD community.

For example, Cathy C. knows that her teenage son with ADHD struggles with the end-of-the-school-day routine. As she explains, "We found that a check sheet taped to his desk would help him to remember the many things he needed to pack up to bring home at the end of the school day. This took some of it off of the teacher and put the responsibility on him."

However, teachers are as varied as the rest of the human population. Not all are flexible. As Suzanne H. laments in the Moms of Kids With ADHD community, "Some teachers are set in their ways and don't want to take the time to help kids who need a little more attention."

If being proactive in offering information doesn't net the kind of changes that address your child's specific learning needs, then it's time to take the teacher to the principal's office.

"I would request a meeting with the school principal to try to get them to support your child and understand her (or his) needs," advises Chantelle M. in the Autism/Aspergers/PDD-Awareness community.

But don't make that request by phone only. It's too easily ignored and too difficult to document. Cathy C. suggests documentation: "I recommend that you email the principal, counselor and teacher(s) to request a meeting. If you do this via email with a read receipt, at least you will know they received the request. When you get a response, make sure you save both your email and theirs, or better yet, save and print all correspondence."

It may seem as if you are in a battle for your child's education. You are. However, do your best to remain non-combative in your strategy with teachers and staff.

"I am really trying not to be on the defensive with teachers, nor do I want to alienate them or cause them to take anything out on my child," writes Shelly N. "But I will do what it takes to make sure he gets all the accommodations and assistance he is entitled to."

Successfully securing accommodations often means having an IEP (Individual Education Plan), which governs your child's education, in effect. (See Riding the IEP Rollercoaster.)

"If you don't have an IEP in place, get it done immediately," posts Angela C., whose youngest son has a co-diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome, ADHD, and anxiety. "Once that's in place, the school and teachers have to follow it and give the help."

Even with an IEP though, you'll no doubt have to continue being a bit of a squeaky wheel. As Jennifer B. shares in the Moms of Kids With ADHD community, you're the best person for the job: "Always remember, no one knows your child better than you do. Never let someone else tell you they think they know what is best just because they see him (or her) for an hour a day, five days a week, in a high-stress environment."

What's worked best for you with your child's teachers?

Image Source: Corinne Schwarz via Flickr/Creative Commons

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

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