Tuesday, 09 October 2012
I am afraid to make this request of parents who have special needs kids because I don't want to be politically incorrect or step on any toes. But I have seen enough instances of it now and how the kids pay the price for it, that I am going to risk potential wrath and just say it. I am a Sunday School teacher (volunteer), and that is the position I am coming from.
Moms and Dads of special needs kids,
Please do not leave your child in my classroom without telling me that your child has special needs. Your child, his teachers, and his peers, are suffering for it.
I have taught and assisted in classrooms for 1st and 2nd graders, and 3 year olds. I have had kids who are obviously autistic, ADD, have sensory processing disorders, etc., and not once has a parent approached me before leaving their child in my care and said, "my son/daughter has these special needs. This is how you can cope with them. Please let me know if you have any questions." I am 100% sure some of those parents are unaware of the diagnosis, but even when a child was diagnosed during the season I had the child in class, I still found out because I approached the parent about it, not because they chose to communicate it to me. Meanwhile, I had been super frustrated by that child (because I did not yet identify the child's behaviors as a disorder) who had been extremely disruptive in class. Fast forward to my approaching the parent and communicating that I wanted the child to be successful in my class, but I needed help knowing how to handle these behaviors. Suddenly the (recent) diagnosis came out, I was given tips for coping in the classroom, and the child was able to be in class with me successfully!
In the second instance that this happened, I had started assisting a teacher in the 3 year old class. A child came in, and when he was greeted, I knew immediately by the teacher's tone that this was a "problem child," and she was not happy to see him. I observed him carefully throughout the night, and I also observed the teacher's interactions with him. He was treated differently than the other kids, and not in a good way. While I had picked up on all the classic red flags for autism, the teacher was obviously unaware, and every autistic behavior he showed, she treated as an inconvenience and a willfully wrong behavior. I was almost in tears by the end of this class, seeing this child isolated and treated negatively because of something that so easily could have been communicated.
This past Sunday, the mother of all incidents happened when a child with a behavioral disorder was left in my care without a word about his needs, and it ended in his grandmother and mother chewing me out when they came to pick him up, because one of my volunteer helpers had grabbed the child's arm, to stop him from repeating the same wrong behavior he had been doing for the last thirty minutes. This parent had left her special needs child in a classroom with 20 other 3 year olds, and 3 adults. I wasn't even present when he was dropped off, so they had left him with two adults and 20 other children, without a word about him having a behavioral disorder that required extra attention. I was unusually short-handed that day, and had they communicated his needs when they left him, we could have at least tried to make accommodation or figured out a better solution so his needs were met. Instead, his needs had to be guessed at and coped with in the spur of the moment, leaving him and the teachers incredibly frustrated and unhappy by the end of our time (nevermind that the whole class was disrupted and barely got through!). And then I bore their wrath for a problem that should've been prevented by their own communication to begin with.
Parents, please don't do this to your child, and please don't do this to the people who are volunteering to care for him/her while you do your thing. Some of you may argue that these volunteers need to be trained to recognize and cope with special needs, but I would argue right back to you that I am trained (from a previous job, not from church), and I still cannot pinpoint a child's needs and meet them spur of the moment like that. It's not fair to your child, his/her teachers, or their peers.
You are your child's advocate, please communicate their needs!