All across the United States, teachers, kids and their families are getting ready for the new school year. If you don’t believe me, check your FB feed – first day of school pictures are the best and I love them all! For the most part, kids are excited to see old and new friends, meet their new teachers, and of course, enter their new grade. However, when it comes to children with disabilities, this time of the year can be full of anxiety and stress. And to help with that, it may require a unique set of preparations. So here are some basic reminders for parents to ensure that your kiddos have a smooth Back to School, too.
First and foremost, talk to your kiddo! It is important that you understand their emotional and physical state. Make sure you give your child talking points about their prosthesis or orthotic devices, so they can feel confident, which will allow them to be social, comfortable, and able to educate their peers about their devices.
ALWAYS visit your child’s prosthetist or orthotist before school starts! As we always say, kids grow up so fast! That is why it is important that you make an appointment with your child’s practitioner a few weeks before school starts. During this time, your doctor can go over helpful tips with you and your child for back to school preparation. Don’t forget to stock up on new prosthetic socks or AFO/KAFO socks. Pack an extra in your child’s backpack for just in case.
But what if your child feels like they stand out and not in a good way? As a parent, you have to make sure your child understands that everyone is different and awesome — some people have glasses, some have freckles, some have curly hair, and some have prostheses or orthotic braces. It’s these differences that make people special. Even if your child performs daily tasks differently, make sure they understand that this does not make them less valuable.
Let’s not forget about educating others! Usually, a new school year means your child will have a new teacher that might not understand the ins and outs of being differently abled. Make sure you take the time to educate the teacher and staff on your child’s devices, and that they are comfortable enough to answer questions other children may have.
Finally, the ugly topic of bullying. Let your child know that it is never okay if they are bullied or made fun of because of their disability – or any reason. That leads me to mention another topic – be an advocate for your child. Speak up for them if you feel they are not receiving the care he or she needs. Remember to include your son or daughter in different clubs and after-school activities. The school year is about learning and continuing to grow with new experiences, including educating your child and their peers about disability and acceptance.
Continue sharing on FB those cute photos of you kiddos going back to school. And remember, we are all in this together. We are here to lift our kids up, help them have good experiences, and grow into the adults they will someday become.
Happy Back To School 2019!