Yo soy La Lay

adventures in family, faith, and Down syndrome

Advocacy #26: Include me – support the teachers

on October 26, 2015

As a teacher, the first thing that I want you to know is that inclusion is not easy.

Worthy of the effort, yes, but not easy.

A high priority for students and communities, absolutely.  But it is not easy.

One of the biggest struggles that teachers face is the differentiate (modify) instruction for a variety of students.  Regardless of how many children have diagnosed special needs, when you have thirty students in a classroom and you have to meet the needs of every one of them, it can get dicey.  When you think about the upper grades, where teachers have over 100 students throughout the day, it’s even more challenging.

But still, it is worth it.

I have always taken the stance that I, as a parent, and soon Tessa, as an individual with Down syndrome, will have to spend a lot of time teaching people about her needs.  When the unexpected happens, when unkind words are shared or people are impatient or rude, we can react in anger or frustration… or we can use that time to teach.

Our school teachers are no different.  We can advocate for our children by understanding that their teachers do not know our children and by showing a willingness to help them understand.  They may have have received no training on working with a child like mine.

(On a side note just as an example, in my teacher training, I had one 10 week class on Methods of Inclusion (along with a clinical observation requirement).  We had a little sprinkling of information about all kinds of special needs and how they might show up in our classrooms.)

(And on another side note, teachers who are unwilling to learn about their students receive no sympathy from me.  If you aren’t willing to educate every child that crosses your path, you need to get out of the profession.)

If we, as parents, always take the stance that people just don’t know any better and that we are here teach them, imagine what a difference we could make.  Sometimes, even if you feel they should know better, they don’t.  Even if we think that they should have worked with a child with Down syndrome or Autism or any special need, they may not have.  Or they may not have done it well because no one ever taught them.

You can work with your child’s teachers.  You can talk to their schools about special training opportunities, presentations, and conferences.  You can talk to colleges and universities about their training programs.  Be open to sharing and teaching and people will learn.

People will learn.  We have to believe in them as much as we believe in our own children.

People will learn.

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