My child has mild cerebral palsy, which affects his speech and his gait. He uses a reverse walker for mobility, and his speech has improved with therapy. He was involved in the First Steps program but because of a series of surgeries he required, and the birth of his sister, I elected to become a “stay at home mom”. I did enroll him in the early childhood special education program at our local Head Start, but he only goes for two half-days each week. In the fall, he will begin Kindergarten, which is a half-day program in our district. What can I do, as a parent, to help make Kindergarten successful for him?
First, do what any parent would do. Love him, encourage him, and be enthusiastic about the beginning of school. Talk about beginning school in the fall, and use a calendar so he can “count down” the days. Plan special activities around beginning school, such as shopping for a backpack in his favorite color, or purchasing a rest mat that has pictures of his favorite cartoon characters. Drive by and look at “his school” and help him become familiar with the comings and goings at school - the buses, the crossing guard, where children enter and exit the school, etc. Take him to the introductory activities, so he can go in his classroom, learn his way to the “important places” (restroom, lunchroom, etc), meet other students and possibly meet his teacher.
As the parent of a child with a disability, make a visit
to the school and meet the principal, the administrative
staff, the staff therapists, and the school nurse. Sign any
record releases or medical forms that may be necessary.
Obtain and sign permission slips for any additional testing
that may need to occur to move your son from an
Individualized Family Support Plan (IFSP) and begin his
Individualized Education Plan (IEP). If additional testing
is needed, arrange for it to be done in advance of the
beginning of school. Set the appointment for the first IEP,
if possible. Make sure that the school facilities are
accessible for your son, since he uses an assistive device
for mobility. Don’t forget to check out the classroom,
cafeteria, restrooms and the playground. Look for yourself
to make sure they are accessible to your son, and point out
any hazards or potential problems to the principal.
Meet your son’s teacher and set up a conference with her just prior to the first day of school if possible. Answer any questions she may have about your son and his disability. Talk about issues of his self-esteem and how you relate to his disability as a family. Share any resources you may have, such as a book for her to read as a professional. Also, if you have them, share with the teacher kid-friendly books that may talk about differences, disability, and acceptance that she can share with the class. Develop a positive relationship with your son’s teachers, therapists and support staff as you all work together to assure him of the best future possible. But, also remember it is important to ask questions, advocate for the best interest of your son, and know his educational rights.
Michelle Reynolds, Director of the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Resource Center, University of Missouri-Kansas City
Last update: Wednesday, April 14, 2010