My child didn’t have much “traditional” language or many communication skills when he was in kindergarten. Did that mean he didn’t belong in the regular education classroom? No!
The best place for him to learn appropriate behavior and talk with others was in a classroom with people who had the skills he didn’t. When he was in elementary school, we didn’t know what he was learning. Now, twenty years later, he can tell me all the things he learned back then. What would he have missed out on if we made him go to a “special” place just because he couldn’t talk?
Sometimes, we expect kids with disabilities to “earn” their way into regular education. But the very reason they are kept out of the general education classroom is the right reason to put them “in.” There will be some things our children won’t be able to do because of their disability—everyone has things they cannot do well. There are adults with disabilities who are not “toilet trained” or cannot walk or write. That doesn’t stop them from going on to post-secondary education, having a job, or living as independently as possible with supports. They succeeded because they were given access to curriculum through technology and other supports.
Assistive Technology is a powerful tool. Do not assume your child is not learning or hearing because they cannot communicate. Search for "Assistive Technology" on Navigate Life Texas. There are a lot of valuable resources that may help with communication or other support needs. You can also find valuable training and resources on the Texas Assistive Technology Network website.
I encourage you to start thinking about the things your children can do, not what they can’t. Your children are not their disability labels.
We shouldn’t talk about our children in regard to their deficits. I have heard families introduce their kids, not by name, but by functioning level, disability label, and so forth. Recently a young adult with a disability introduced herself to me as “I’m the ____ kid,” (insert your favorite disability/condition).
We need to watch our language around our children. They hear us even when they appear not to. The next time you talk about your child in front of them, think about what you are trying to portray. Is it pity? Do you want someone to feel sorry for you? What message is it sending to your child?
What if we all took the time to brag about our kids with a disability just like other parents do? When we think positively about our children, they will surprise us with all that they can do.
When you attend your child’s ARD/IEP (Admission, Review and Dismissal / Individual Education Program) meetings, remember to include them in the process. They don’t need to attend the whole meeting if that’s too difficult for them. They can (in their mode of communication) introduce themselves, their teacher, and what they like about school. This is a good time for them to share some of their “likes” from their Student Introduction Portfolio.
Learn how to make a portfolio. It can share great things about our children that are not documented in the IEP. What a great way to set the stage for a positive ARD/IEP meeting!
Have high expectations. Our children are depending on us to set the bar. When we focus on the “cans,” our kids will amaze us with their abilities!