Navigate Life Texas: Resources for kids with disabilities and special needs

Navigate Life Texas: Resources for kids with disabilities and special needs

Focus on the “Cans” — Not the “Cannots”

03/30/2016 | Published by: Family to Family Network

My child didn’t have “traditional” language or communication skills when he was in kindergarten. Did that mean he didn’t belong in the regular education classroom, learning alongside his peers? The best place for him to learn appropriate behavior and to talk with others was in a classroom full of people who had the skills he didn’t have.

When he was in elementary school he couldn’t tell us what he was learning. Now, 20 years later, he is able to 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?

Some of those “cannots” will never change due to a child’s disability no matter how hard people try. But sometimes, we expect kids with disabilities to “earn” their way into general education curriculum, when really, the reason we keep them out is precisely the reason to put them in.

There are plenty of adults with disabilities who are not toilet trained or who cannot walk or write. That doesn’t stop them from going on to post-secondary education, employment, or living as independently as possible. They’re able to excel later in life because they had access to a regular curriculum through technology and supports.

Assistive Technology is a powerful tool. Do not assume your child is not learning simply because they cannot communicate. Search Assistive Technology on this website for valuable resources that help with communication. You can also find information at Texas Assistive Technology Network.

Focus on the Cans

I challenge you to start thinking about the things your child can do!

Your child is not his/her disability label. And we shouldn’t talk about them in terms of their deficits. I have heard many families introduce their kids by functioning level or disability label instead of by name.   

We need to be aware of 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. Do you want someone to feel sorry for them, or 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 you start to think positively about them – your child will surprise you with all they can do!

As you attend your ARD/IEP meetings, remember to include your child in the process. They don’t need to attend the whole meeting. They can come in to introduce themselves (in their mode of communication) and what they like about school. It is also a good time for them to share their “likes” using a Student Introduction Portfolio. It can show great things about your child that are not in the IEP. What a great way to set the stage for a positive meeting!

Have high expectations! Your child is depending on you! When we focus on the “cans,” our kids will amaze us with their abilities!


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