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Educating Resistant Teachers About Special Needs

Educating Resistant Teachers About Special Needs

Your special needs kid wiggles in his chair at school and often stares off into space, leading his teacher to the assumption that he's not paying attention. Or even worse, the teacher begins to consider him to be a behavior problem just waiting to happen.

Trouble is your kiddo actually has one (or possibly even more than one) of the many and varied cognitive disabilities that express themselves highly uniquely in each child, and that still baffle some in the educational community. And now you, the parent, are having trouble convincing his teacher to provide a modified approach in the classroom. Or perhaps you have presented said teacher with plenty of documentation, and the teacher dutifully nodded and said, "thank you," but a lack of adjustment in the classroom has proved that actions truly do speak louder than words.

"I have found that your child's success in school depends entirely on the type of teacher that they have," posts Tammy N. in the Moms of Kids With ADHD community. "The teacher has the ability to make or break your experience."


But what can you do when there appears to be more breaking than making occurring?

The first step is talking. Yes, talking — even though having a pleasant conversation with said difficult teacher is probably the last thing you really want to do.

"Communication with the teachers and staff is so important," writes Shelly N., also a member of the Moms of Kids With ADHD community. She has two boys who've been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. "I kill them (the teachers) with kindness, offer names of books for them to read, and send them links to sites with helpful info."

A first bridge-builder is to give the teacher the benefit of the doubt. They aren't necessarily "experts" on every disability. As Shelly N. cautions, "do not assume that teachers, because they are teachers, know how to deal with and help these kids. They get a blip of concentrated instruction in this area."

Lanny H. suggests tactfully sharing some tips that you already know will work with your child: "Come up with some acceptable methods to help," she says in the Moms of Kids With ADHD community.

For example, Cathy C. knows that her teenage son with ADHD struggles with the end-of-the-school-day routine. As she explains, "We found that a check sheet taped to his desk would help him to remember the many things he needed to pack up to bring home at the end of the school day. This took some of it off of the teacher and put the responsibility on him."

However, teachers are as varied as the rest of the human population. Not all are flexible. As Suzanne H. laments in the Moms of Kids With ADHD community, "Some teachers are set in their ways and don't want to take the time to help kids who need a little more attention."

If being proactive in offering information doesn't net the kind of changes that address your child's specific learning needs, then it's time to take the teacher to the principal's office.

"I would request a meeting with the school principal to try to get them to support your child and understand her (or his) needs," advises Chantelle M. in the Autism/Aspergers/PDD-Awareness community.

But don't make that request by phone only. It's too easily ignored and too difficult to document. Cathy C. suggests documentation: "I recommend that you email the principal, counselor and teacher(s) to request a meeting. If you do this via email with a read receipt, at least you will know they received the request. When you get a response, make sure you save both your email and theirs, or better yet, save and print all correspondence."

It may seem as if you are in a battle for your child's education. You are. However, do your best to remain non-combative in your strategy with teachers and staff.

"I am really trying not to be on the defensive with teachers, nor do I want to alienate them or cause them to take anything out on my child," writes Shelly N. "But I will do what it takes to make sure he gets all the accommodations and assistance he is entitled to."

Successfully securing accommodations often means having an IEP (Individual Education Plan), which governs your child's education, in effect. (See Riding the IEP Rollercoaster.)

"If you don't have an IEP in place, get it done immediately," posts Angela C., whose youngest son has a co-diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome, ADHD, and anxiety. "Once that's in place, the school and teachers have to follow it and give the help."

Even with an IEP though, you'll no doubt have to continue being a bit of a squeaky wheel. As Jennifer B. shares in the Moms of Kids With ADHD community, you're the best person for the job: "Always remember, no one knows your child better than you do. Never let someone else tell you they think they know what is best just because they see him (or her) for an hour a day, five days a week, in a high-stress environment."

What's worked best for you with your child's teachers?

Image Source: Corinne Schwarz via Flickr/Creative Commons

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

Join The Conversation
SarahBilski SarahBilski 5 years
As a teacher and a mother I'm offended by this article.
Anna6064 Anna6064 6 years
I have been teaching for twenty years and have seen many changes to the education system. Now, all students of all abilities are placed in the regular classroom and occasionally there is an aide to help with the ones who have an IEP. In our school system, ADHD is merely a medical diagnosis and does not afford the student any help from the resource teacher, etc. Additionally, many more diagnoses have come about in the recent years. Unfortunately, the government involvement in schools has kept us from providing the most appropriate environment for each student. They call it "tracking" and make it illegal for students to be grouped according to ability. Although I am a veteran teacher and have a son with ADHD myself, there is only so much "individual attention" that I can give and still stay on the curriculum that is set before me to accomplish in a given period of time. There are also other students in the room to consider. There is no way to please all of the people all of the time, but I'm doing the absolute best I can with what I have. I stay in my room during my planning period to help students, I have stayed after school with them, assigned peer tutors, kept up with parent contact through email and phone calls. The best advice I can give ANY parent visible, participate, and keep in touch with the teacher. Volunteer. Send a grandparent to volunteer. But don't go in with a bulldozer attitude and expect postive results.
CoMMember13631151416496 CoMMember13631151416496 6 years
My son needed help and had the sence to ask for it, she just said to him you did it all wrong and walked away. He came home putting holes in my walls. I pulled my son and insisted on assessments, discovered he was moderately intellectually disabled , with sensory dysfuntions issues. The teacher approached me saying thank you for pulling him that I did the right thing. After the tests and a meeting with the School staff and creating an IEP there only solution was to get that same teacher to be incharge of his adapted program. She already admitted that she could not or did not want to go there. Are they just stupid. I refused to do that I kept him home and taught him myself or found unique programs in the community which didn't last long due to cost. Now I have Three kids doing homeschooling and soon to be four. The only son that has not an intellectual disablility , but a learning disability they still don't help . After 5 boys and six years of trying to work with teachers and the typical school system. I am convinced that teachers and administrators don't get it. or don't care. I am exhausted....
Anne50593 Anne50593 6 years
My son has ADHD. His confidence has faultered considerably since starting school. We were blessed with an amazing teacher one year, and he flourished, but otherwise he has had one problem after another. When he was punished with an IEP in place for behavior covered in his IEP, I began homeschooling him with amazing results. He's the child he was before he began school. His confidence is back, and there truly is no child left behind in our classroom. I'm his Mom, we will work together until he's got it. The difference is, I'm invested, I think he's great, and he is secure in that knowledge.
nitabarnes44453 nitabarnes44453 6 years
i have found that educating others is hard when i am not fully educated myself. that's why i spend practically every waking moment reading up on things. when my daughter was first diagnosed with autism i found great resources and even was able to combat one professional that said that she wasn't on the spectrum. i replied about certain behaviors on the spectrum and her opinion did a total 180. it is sad though, that because of all these cuts, teachers aren't being educated. although i fully agree with the new proposal that every person going to school to be an educator needs credits in special ed to fulfill their educational requirements. i found the School Community Tool Kit through and it lists helpful information for EVERY member of the school, not just teachers. janitors, food service, every one! i am actually going to present it today to the members of my daughters' team because there are a lot of children out there with a lot of different diagnostic terms, and this covers a bunch of them. i wish you all luck! and, like rachael said, we need to raise our voice. no one else will be your kid's voice but you! :o)
FernandaSaavedra FernandaSaavedra 6 years
I truly understand what it's like dealing with nonunderstanding educators. Up until this year I had an ok team of educators helping my son but now he has a RSP teacher that thinks she knows everything about my son when clearly she is wrong more than half the time. Unfortunately with the state wide budget cuts and layoffs, we as parents are even more limited to choosing the right education for our children. I am my son's number one teacher and I will continue pushing him and helping him become the person he wants to be - and he's already the GREATEST KID in the WORLD! :)
PattyAnker PattyAnker 6 years
Sometimes enlisting an expert to come in and do an inservice training of teachers and staff can go a long way. My daughter has Tourette Syndrome and ADHD and representatives of the Tourette Syndrome Association went into her school and did presentations to all the teachers and aides - often it's not just your child that has these issues, this way, the training is done across the board to the benefit of all the kids who are struggling with similar disabilities. This is also a way to keep the discussion professional and research-based, rather than it seeming like an emotional mom who is begging for special treatment for her child.
CoMMember1363116457773 CoMMember1363116457773 6 years
I have a comment for Nichole. I am extremely sorry no one had helped you. That is very sad to hear. However, I am a public school teacher that works with kids with ADHD,speech, emotional needs and Aspergers. I do care. I work very hard in helping these kids and meeting their needs, I utilize the opportunity to get furthur training and specialists that has educated me on working with these type of kids and their families. So, I wanted to let you know Public Schools do care, and I personally think we do no need to start over. I am sorry that you had a bad experience.
RachaelIngram RachaelIngram 6 years
I beleive the education department needs to support teachers who have students with special needs such as adhd ect. My son was discriminated because he has adhd , he wanted to be taught how to play the bass guitar, i said this is wrong and the minute i said this is discrimination, the teacher gave daniel a chance to be treated like the rest of the class. I beleive as parents we need to raise our voice and stand up for discrimination.
vvNiki vvNiki 6 years
You cannot educate people who don't want to understand. I have a learning disability that NO one helped me with during any of my school years, at any given time. Public schools don't care. That's why we need to scrap them and start over. Whole system is garbage.
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