By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.
Disability in a child does not necessarily mean Learning Disabilities. There are a variety of disabilities - including autism, hearing impairment, speech and language disorders, and cerebral palsy - with symptoms that may not be readily noticeable at birth. Some children experience difficulties in school, ranging from problems with concentration, learning, language, and perception to problems with behavior and/or making and keeping friends. These difficulties may be due to one or more of the following: physical disorders, psychiatric disorders, emotional problems, behavioral problems, and learning disorders. Parents of children with special needs have a very important role to play in the education of their children.
- Parents can develop a partnership with the school or agency which is going to provide education for the disabled child. They are now an important member of the team and should share relevant information about the child's education and development. Parent's observations and suggestions can be a valuable resource to aid the child's progress.
- Parents should try and learn as much as they can about their rights and the rights of their child. They can also ask the school to explain these rights as well as the regulations in effect for their district and state before they agree to a special education program for their child. They can contact disability organizations for their publications on special education rights.
- Parents should clarify their doubts regarding the educational program for their child. Educational and medical terms can be confusing, so clearing doubts is advisable.
- Parents should consider how their child can be included in the regular school activities program. Do not forget areas such as lunch, recess, art, music, and physical education.
- Child's progress should be monitored regularly. If the child is not progressing, discuss it with the teacher and determine whether the program should be modified. As a parent, you can initiate review of your child's educational program.
- Parents should discuss with the school or agency any problems that may occur with their child's assessment, placement, or educational program. It is best to try to resolve problems directly with the agency or school. In case of uncertainty relating to solving the child's problem, help of advocacy agencies can be taken.
- Parents should keep records of the questions and comments about their child. This helps in remembering the important information which can be useful for the child's development and education.
- Researches have proven that children learn most easily in the early years, and if opportunities are missed during critical periods, learning becomes more difficult. Hence, early intervention should be done to minimize the impact of the disability, so that the child requires fewer services in future.
When parents discover that their child has a disability, they often go through a cycle of grief, which are similar to that experienced by someone who's lost a loved one, including periods of fear, anger, denial, guilt, and deep sadness. Dealing with the grief and moving forward is vital, because involvement of parents is very important for working with professionals to provide services to their young child. Along with patience, time and support, love and determination, will help you to truly celebrate the unique and special child you have.
Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center, http://www.startingadaycarecenter.com.